The Law Commission is reviewing Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code in order to suggest whether "to do away with" the sedition law that is widely regarded as draconian, The Economic Timesreported today.
A senior law commission official told the newspaper, "The constitutional validity of the sedition law has already been upheld. The commission has to suggest whether the time has come to do away with it, whether the definition of sedition needs a relook. The misuse of this law is also to be factored in before reaching a conclusion."
The Law Commission is an advisory body comprising legal experts and its recommendations are not binding on the government.
Section 124A. Sedition — Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in 1India, 1 shall be punished with 1imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Concerns about the "misuse" of sedition law have been growing since the Modi government came to power in the summer of 2014. Critics argue that it is becoming a threat to free speech. There were widespread protests when two students of Jawaharlal Nehru University were accused of raising "anti national" on campus and booked for sedition. Earlier this week, at least 19 people were slapped with sedition charges for allegedly cheering Pakistan's victory in a recent cricket match against India.
The Law Commission set about reviewing Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, last year. Even the Modi government has admitted that the sedition law as it stands today is "very wide."
"Anybody who speaks against the government can be booked under sedition law. Amendments have been suggested because the definition is very wide. That is why concerns have been raised," Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha, last year.
ET further reported that the Law Commission will review a private member's bill moved by Congress Party lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, which says that sedition charges can be imposed only when a person's actions lead to violence. "If after perusal and holding debates, consultations with legal luminaries and stakeholders, the commission concurs with the amendments proposed in the bill, we may suggest additions or deletions in the existing bill," another law commission official told ET.
Tharoor has said previously," Until and unless arguments and ideas turn violent (maar-peet), charges of sedition should not be levelled against any person. People must be allowed to say whatever they want to."
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