On a day when the Supreme Court directed that no coercive action be taken against two Andhra Pradesh based news channels in sedition cases filed against them, a comment by Justice DY Chandrachud revealed that the top court is not in the dark about frivolous sedition cases being filed against journalists and others..During today's hearing in the suo motu COVID-19 case, the Court deliberated upon how dignity in death could be assured to patients who succumb to the Coronavirus. Justice Chandrachud adverted to a news article which reported on dead bodies being thrown into a river from a bridge..“A news report yesterday showed that dead bodies were being thrown into the river. I don't know if a sedition case has been filed against the news channel yet," he said. .Was the observation of the apex court just a passing remark or was it a reflection of how the law of sedition is applied by ruling dispensations across the country?Bar & Bench spoke to certain eminent jurists and former judges to get their views on Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which lays down the offence of sedition. .Emphatic restatement of sedition law needed, it has outlived its purposeSenior Advocate and former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.Rohatgi said that the law of sedition is very clear from the Kedar Nath Singh case of 1962."There has to be a call to arms to overthrow the government by rebellion. This is the meaning of sedition and not what is shown on television channels," he said. .He underscored that the purpose of sedition is not to stifle free speech or criticism. "I hope people understand the meaning of sedition and [do not use it] to stifle free speech. These examples have come up in the recent past...We have been witnessing an easy recourse to the provision of sedition, including for the Republic Day protest. It is a new tool that the authorities of the police have discovered in the last few years," he said. .To address this issue, an emphatic restatement of the law would be needed, Rohatgi said, adding that the law, which was a British product, should be "relieved". .Section 124A a relic of British imperialism. In fact it should be relieved only.Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan Lokur said that the law has been used indiscriminately in the recent past and this tendency has to stop. "I have not come across a case of sedition when I was a judge. However, now sedition law is being used indiscriminately. It is time this should stop. Enough is enough," he said. .It is a tool to muzzle free speech and is being used so frequently.Justice (Retd) MB Lokur.Section 124A has become a tool to muzzle free speech, he said, while also highlighting that the courts, through interpretation of the provision, have laid down sufficient safeguards. Despite this, the governments do not follow the same, Justice Lokur said."This has indeed become a tool to muzzle free speech and is being used so frequently. Law is already there and if the State chooses not to follow the law laid down by the Supreme Court, what can the Court do?" he asked. ."Except when a case comes up before it, the Court cannot tell the State that its action is unjustified. It is up to the government to ensure lawful implementation and not arbitrary implementation," he added. .Justice Chandrachud’s comment reflects upon the conduct of the authoritiesFormer Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice Govind Mathur.Justice Govind Mathur, who recently retired as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, echoed Justice Lokur's views that the tendency to invoke Section 124A has seen a rapid rise in recent years. "[The filing of] Such kind of sedition cases is an absolutely new phenomenon. In earlier days, this was not there at all. In the last 7 years, there were not so many sedition cases. Prior to 1973, sedition was made a non-cognizable offence. But in 1973, it was made cognizable but it was at least not used against journalists in a casual way," he said. .He opined that the provision has been invoked in the last 2-3 years without sufficient reasons and with respect to crimes that can otherwise be dealt with under general law. "Even apart from that, it is surprising how authorities are invoking sedition for each and every case. At the moment, the solution lies only in case to case basis adjudication. Otherwise, it will be difficult to address it because courts cannot give a direction which is general in nature. The authorities have to justify the ingredients," he said. .Specifically on Justice Chandrachud's remarks, Justice Mathur said that it might not make much difference to how authorities act. ."Regarding this observation and whether it will act as a deterrent measure for authorities, I do not think such kind of sensitivity is now available for people at the helm of affairs. At the most, it will be like an observation is made. But the comment is quite serious and reflects [badly on] their conduct. But I don't think such kind of sensitivity is available any more," he said. .Comedians, cartoonists, poets are being put in jail for sedition, the Supreme Court should be vigilant.Justice (Retd) BN Srikrishna.Retired Supreme Court judge, Justice BN Srikrishna was also of the opinion that the law on sedition has had clarity for quite some time. "Originally, the law was that anything criticizing the government was sedition. Subsequently, the government toned it down so much that if speech does not call for war or violence, then you cannot charge them under Section 124A. The Supreme Court is alive to it and in recent days has become very conscious about it," he said. .He pointed out that the top court has given three to four judgments since the 1950s on the scope of the law. "If the law is clear, then it need not be said often. It's like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The Supreme Court has better things to do in its life than say the same things again and again. The Supreme Court can take this opportunity and lay down the law. If not followed, then persons can be hauled for contempt," Justice Srikrishna opined. .The Supreme Court, he said, is supposed to be the "sentinel on the qui vive" against invasion of fundamental rights. "Hence, they have to look at it on an individual basis and rights of the affected party need to be addressed," he stated. .In this regard, he also highlighted how comedians, artists and poets are being booked under the law. .Look at how High Courts acted during Emergency, especially how Allahabad High Court is working now. Hope the winds of change blow soon.Justice BN Srikrishna ."Look at what is happening. Comedians, cartoonists, poets are being put in jail for sedition. It is reaching the point of absurdity and it is here the Supreme Court should be vigilant. Look at how High Courts acted during Emergency, especially how Allahabad High Court is working now. Hope the winds of change blow soon," he said.