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A day after Delhi Police arrested ex-JNU student leader Umar Khalid and several others under anti-terror law for their alleged role in Delhi riots, former Supreme Court judge Justice MB Lokur said that the government was using sedition law with iron hands to curb Freedom of Speech.
The former judge made the remarks on Monday while speaking at a webinar organised by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) and Swaraj Abhiyan.
He said, “State can curb and check speech in a constitutional manner. But the state is using sedition as an iron hand to curb speech. Suddenly, you have a lot of cases being filed, charging people of sedition. Already 70 cases of sedition have been filed this year.”
He added, “A speech, which talks about unity and integrity of the country is seen as ‘breaking the country’ and the person is put under preventive detention. There are youngsters, students talking about doing good for the country, but the State says I’m arresting you for unlawful activities and sedition.”
The former judge also slammed the government for dubbing reports as ‘fake news’ in order to slap sedition charges. He also spoke about an incident in Punjab where a journalist was booked for sedition and arrested for reporting on the shortage of ventilators amid COVID-19 crisis in the state.
The former judge said, “The reporter stated that the COVID-19 situation wasn’t under control in the state and that the Chief Minister may be changed.” The state branded the journalist’s report as speculative and fake news and arrested him for sedition.
Speaking on senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan and his recent ‘Contempt of Court’ Lokur said Bhushan’s statements were also misread.
Citing the example of Dr Kafeel Khan, the former judge said the doctor’s speech was misread too; he was charged with the National Security Act (NSA) over his statements against CAA.