“I don’t know what the government will do about the sedition provision but in my opinion it will remove it,” Lokur said. But equally worrying is a parallel provision of Section 13 in the UAPA which says that whoever wants or intends to cause dissatisfaction against India. “In sedition it is discontent against the government but in UAPA provision it is discontent against India, that’s the only difference,” he said. There were some exceptions in sedition where charges of sedition cannot be invoked but there are no exceptions under Section 13 of the UAPA. If this provision remains, it will be like going from worst to worse.
Difficult to get bail under UAPA
The former judge said that what the state sees as dissent is not clearly defined, it is very dangerous as it is difficult to get bail under the UAPA. He said the Supreme Court, in its May 11 order, had stayed investigation in sedition cases and stayed all proceedings and pending cases under the sedition law across the country. Retired judge Lokur said, “This status quo is a disadvantageous part of all the proceedings under the sedition law pending trial across the country. Suppose a person who is innocent but falsely booked under sedition and wants the trial to be completed, he has to wait for some time.’
Young environmental activist Disha Ravi mentioned
M. B. “Similarly, if someone is convicted under sedition and has filed an appeal against his conviction, he too will have to wait till such status quo is lifted,” Lokur said. Would have happened if the apex court had not ordered this status quo and instead a mechanism should have been devised to provide relief to such people. She referred to young environmental activist Disha Ravi, whose passport was withheld and she could not attend a summit in Copenhagen because she was charged with sedition.
“Those who are facing the provision of sedition need some protection, because if their trial is stayed, they will have to wait indefinitely for the judgment to come,” Lokur said. This status quo order may create some problems.
Lawyer-activist Vrinda Grover, who appeared in the top court on behalf of two women journalists Patricia Mukhim and Anuradha Bhasin in the sedition case, also termed the May 11 order as significant. Grover said that petitioners like Mukhim and Bhasin are of the view that the sedition law affects the freedom of the press and stopping it is an important step. Human rights activist Gladson Dungdung referred to the Patthargarhi movement in tribal areas of Jharkhand, which she claimed had accused 11,109 people of sedition.