Govt. wants to make sedition law more draconian: Congress

Congress says Law Commission ignores the ‘spirit’ of Supreme Court proceedings

June 02, 2023 10:29 pm | Updated 10:29 pm IST - New Delhi:

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi addressing the media at AICC  ,  Delhi on June 2, 2023.

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi addressing the media at AICC , Delhi on June 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Citing the Law Commission’s backing of Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC ), pertaining to sedition, the Congress on Friday alleged that the BJP government was planning to make the law more “draconian” and wanted to send a message before the next general election that it would be used against Opposition leaders.

The principal Opposition party alleged that the BJP used the sedition law as a tool of “subversing, subjugating, and silencing dissent” and asked why the government had not yet had the courage to do away with the Supreme Court making strong observations and rendering it inoperative.

Former Law Minister and independent Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal too accused the government of trying to make the law more stringent.

“A message of colonial mindset has been given that there will be a distance between the ruler and the ruled, and through this law, the foundations of the republic will be uprooted. A message has been given ahead of the general election that we will use this in a one-sided manner particularly against Opposition leaders,” Congress leader and senior Supreme Court advocate Abhishek Singhvi said.

On Thursday, The Hindu had reported that the law panel backed the penal provision for the offence of sedition, saying repealing it altogether could have adverse ramifications for the security and integrity of the country.

Jail term

The commission has recommended enhancing the jail term in sedition cases from a minimum of three years to seven years, contending that it would allow the courts greater room to award punishment in accordance with the scale and gravity of the act committed.

In the report titled the ‘Usage of the Law of Sedition’, the commission said its earlier report had termed the punishment for Section 124A (law of sedition) of the IPC “very odd” as it had provisions for either life imprisonment or a three-year jail term, but nothing in between. The minimum punishment under the sedition law is paying a fine.

‘Treacherous development’

Mr. Singhvi said in a “terrible, tragic, and treacherous development”, the Law Commission had recommended that 124 A should “not only be retained, but also made more harsh”. The particular Section of the IPC deals with sedition and right now under abeyance after directions from the Supreme Court in May, 2022, not to file any case under the provision.

“The BJP government now plans to become more draconian, drastic, and deadly than the colonial regime,” he said.

“In a nutshell, the Law Commission proposal makes the existing sedition law far more draconian, invasive and prejudicial by enhancing the lower end of the punishment from three to seven years,” Mr. Singhvi noted, adding that it ignored the spirit of the Supreme Court proceedings in May and October last year that “had rendered the entire offence of sedition in the country inoperative and intended it to be repealed”.

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