Govt. admits sedition definition is wide

All-party meet after Law Commission submits report

March 17, 2016 02:47 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The government admitted in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the definition of sedition under the law was “very wide” and agreed to an all-party meeting to discuss the issue after the Law Commission, which is examining the matter, submits its report.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said this after members raised the issue in the wake of JNU students having been charged with sedition.

“The Law Commission is carrying out a review of this law. Our government has said they should submit the report as soon as possible,” he said.

When Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav sought an all-party meeting, Mr. Singh said: “We will do it after the commission’s report is submitted.” His deputy in the Home Ministry, Kiren Rijiju, said: “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. I would like to ask the Law Commission to consider a very comprehensive review.” Mr. Rijiju said the Commission, in its 42nd report, had noted that the sedition law was “defective” but did not favour its deletion.

He said that in another report too, the Commission sought a change in the definition but did not favour the scrapping of the law.

Rejecting the Opposition’s charge that the NDA government was misusing the law, Mr. Rijiju said: “It is registered in Telangana, not Delhi,” alluding to the sedition case filed against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Quoting figures from a report of the National Crime Records Bureau, he said 47 cases under the sedition law were reported across the country in 2014, of which 16 were registered in Bihar and 28 arrests were made. “The second highest is in Jharkhand, followed by Kerala and Odisha,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised apprehensions that given the wide definition of the sedition law “half of the parties will be anti-national if there is a ban on speaking against the government.” He also wondered whether those engaged in “communal divide” will also be brought within the ambit of sedition law after the review.

“The sedition law needs to be revisited. You take action against those who raise slogans against the country. But even more dangerous are those who are engaged in carrying out communal divide. Will this also come under the new sedition law,” Mr. Azad asked. Mr. Rijiju said that since the JNU case was in court, its pros and cons should not be debated. He, however, added: “I am not defending the action of the Delhi Police. I am just stating the facts.”

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