Former Supreme Court judge Rohinton Fali Nariman on Sunday said that the Supreme Court should strike down the sedition law and “offensive portions” of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Nariman said that the two laws were harmful for democracy.

“Governments will come and go [but] it is important for the [Supreme] court to use its power and strike down [Indian Penal Code] section 124A and the offensive portion of [the] UAPA,” Nariman said while addressing an event. “Then citizens here would breathe more freely.”

Nariman recounted that the sedition law was used during the British rule to put freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, in jail, Bar and Bench reported.

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with sedition, provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment if a person shows “disaffection” towards the government through “words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation”.

In July, the Supreme Court had agreed to examine the law’s validity.

Meanwhile in case of UAPA, lawyers and judges see the law as part of the police’s efforts to stifle peaceful dissent. They have also said the police in India are frequently using the anti-terrorism law as it enables them to detain the accused for longer periods of time without a trial.

Under the law, investigative agencies get 180 days to probe a case, compared to 60-90 days under ordinary criminal law. This means an accused is eligible to apply for bail only after six months.

On Sunday, Nariman pointed this out and said that UAPA was a “draconian act”. He added that the law has a “chilling effect” on journalists.

“[The] Nobel peace prize was given to two journalists from the Philippines [and Russia],” he said. “India’s rank there was 142... Why? This is more to do with India’s bank of colonial laws,” he said.

The former Supreme Court judge was referring to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, who were awarded the Nobel Prize for peace on Friday.

Meanwhile in April last year, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked India 142nd among 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index.