Hyderabad: Former Solicitor-General of India N Santosh Hegde today said he is in "favour" of the sedition law as some "restrictions" are needed to stop people from abusing and talking against the country. The retired Supreme Court judge argued that the act of some JNU students, who allegedly termed the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru as "judicial murder" and raised anti-India slogans, "definitely amounts" to sedition.
JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on sedition charges earlier this month. Five students, accused of sedition and missing for days, surfaced on the JNU campus last night. "I believe in sedition law. I am a patriot. Any patriot cannot go on abusing the country. There are certain parameters," the former Karnataka Lokayukta told PTI. "Many people think differently in this country whose allegiance is with some other country or some other group... if democracy has to survive, then there should be some restrictions on the people talking against the country.
"Forget all other things. You criticise the government, criticise the individuals, criticise the system. Patriotism can never be criticised," he said.
Hegde said he does not believe in the previous judgment of the Supreme Court that says mere talk is not sedition and should be followed by actions, something contrary to law.
"I don't believe in that judgement. Sedition means propagating some views which are against the nation. As long as the judgement of the Supreme Court is there, I am bound to say its the law of the day today. I am one of those persons who would say that the judgement should be changed," Hegde said, citing events in JNU after the 9 February controversial event, including violence in Patiala House.
"You can't meddle with patriotism. Everything is alright (but) patriotism can never be compromised," Hegde said. He strongly sought to counter those who favour junking the century-old sedition law saying it's an archaic legislation and a relic of British colonialism. "What about Indian Penal Code. How old is it? You scrap Indian Penal Code because somebody is involved in a crime? (and wants it to be scrapped). Its a 230-year-old act. You change it," Hegde said, reacting angrily to suggestions in some quarters on scrapping the sedition law.
"There are ways and means of saying it. There are people who say they don't believe in death sentence. But I would ask them a question. What happens to the fundamental right of a victim who died? Who was killed by somebody else. It's a very, very sad day for a country. "In Pakistan, what happened? A Virat Kohli fan showed Indian flag and was sentenced for 10 years. No country can ever compromise on its integrity. Forget everything else. So far as integrity of the nation is concerned, never ever compromise it," Hegde said, adding. "Urgent reform is a system by which every judgement is delivered within one year in criminal cases and within two years in civil cases. Remove all the appeals provision. Like in the United States, there is one trial court and one appellate court. Supreme Court (in the US) is not meant for civil cases," he said.
"(The) American Supreme Court is meant only for interpretation of constitution of the United States. Here (in India), just imagine, in Lalu Prasad Yadav's case, charge sheet was filed in 1996 and first conviction was in 2013, sixteen years later. What sort of justice (is this)? Who will be afraid of punishment? Because of freedom of speech, we have been talking anything and everything. And we get away with it," he said.
The former SG said that there should be judicial reforms. "There was a time when we (judges) used to respect precedent law, that is, law laid down by superior court or larger bench had to be followed implicitly by other judges. Today, I don't find that discipline. People either not notice earlier judgments, just bypass the judgement and deliver their judgement or they say on facts this is different from that case. No...there should be more judicial discipline than what it is today," Hegde added.