It is Time to Get Rid of the Law of Criminal Defamation

Journalists, party spokesmen and Subramanian Swamy have much to fear from the Supreme Court’s judgment upholding criminal defamation.

Justice Dipak Mishra, who wrote the judgment, has been in the news these past few weeks, for his handling of the Uttarakhand case, when he struck down president’s rule, for his comments in the Sabarimala case dealing with temple entry for women and now for the judgment upholding the validity of Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. The Code itself is of 1872 vintage and that immediately makes it suspect and vulnerable to attack. It is noteworthy that at the time when it was enacted, there was no codified criminal law in England but this code was put in place for British India and it continues to carry those birthmarks. The recent controversy over the sedition law also drew attention to the colonial origins of the law and pointed out that time and political events required a different approach to what is a crime and what is not.

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