Former Chief Justice of India UU Lalit said on Friday that sedition has always been a “thorn in the flesh” for all journalistic ventures, reported The Hindu.

Lalit made the comments at the International Press Institute India Award for Excellence in Journalism 2022. He spoke about freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak who had defended himself in a court when the charge of sedition was levelled against him by the British administration.

However, Tilak was convicted and imprisoned for six years under sedition law.

“Fair criticism is the right of every individual, [it] is the cherished right of every journalist,” Lalit said quoting Tilak. “I have every right to comment upon the policies and acts of the government. If I do that, then it is not sedition. Sedition is something bigger than that: inciting disaffection to incite rebellion. If I do something which is to highlight the problems by people and I put it across, it is not sedition.”

Last year, the Supreme Court had put the colonial-era sedition law under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code in abeyance and requested state governments and the Centre to not file any new cases under the rule till it is re-examined.

The section states that whoever “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India” can be held to have committed the offence of sedition.

Journalists, activists and political leaders have also filed petitions in the Supreme Court calling for the scrutiny of the law.