Law is being misused to curb free press and speech, former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur said on October 12. "A lethal cocktail of use and misuse of law is being used to impact adversely the liberty of all those who dare to speak up," he added.
The former top court judge was critical of "weaponising" of the sedition laws, "abuse" of prohibitory orders, and blanket shutdown of the internet.
While delivering the 2020 BG Verghese Memorial Lecture on Preserving and Protecting our Fundamental Rights Freedom of Speech, Expression and the Right to Protest, organised by the Media Foundation, Justice Lokur said that one of the worst forms of curtailment of the freedom of speech is charging a person with sedition.
He highlighted how that the Supreme Court had laid down the sedition law clearly in 1962 itself, yet authorities have multiple ways of weaponising it.
Stressing upon ways of "silencing speech", he referred to many cases, including that of the preventive detention of Dr Kafeel Khan, and said almost every procedure of law was being violated by the detaining authorities.
Justice Lokur also mentioned about the arrest of Pinjra Tod member Devangana Kalitaina Delhi riots case. "Any citizen can be arrested on the basis of a fairy tale and will have to go through a long-drawn process for being set free," he said.
He said that the law is to be interpreted objectively, but of late, subjective satisfaction has dominated and the consequences are unpalatable.
The former apex court judge alleged that the use of Section 144 of CrPC to "keep the media out of the Hathras gangrape area is nothing but an egregious violation of the freedom of the press through a bizarre abuse of law".
"Fundamental right to free speech is extremely important for any civilised democracy," Justice Lokur said. He also stated that authorities need to ensure that the laws are not misused or abused in any manner that deprives citizens of their liberties.
He said that in any democracy, there are bound to be different points of view. "These must be respected, otherwise, the fabric of our society might disintegrate," he added.