Nobody should cross ‘Lakshman Rekha’, says Law Minister after Supreme Court freezes sedition law

Congress, Left parties urge court to quash law

Updated - May 11, 2022 08:12 pm IST

Published - May 11, 2022 08:02 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju with Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju with Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana. | Photo Credit: PTI

Nobody should cross the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ and the court should respect the government and the legislature just as the government respects the court, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Wednesday after the Supreme Court stayed the sedition law, while the Opposition parties welcomed the order.

Several parties including the Congress, the CPI and the CPI(M) urged the Supreme Court to quash the sedition law without waiting for the government to complete its exercise of reviewing the law.

Speaking to reporters after the order, Mr. Rijiju said: “We respect each other. The court should respect the government, legislature. The government should also respect the court. We have clear demarcation of boundary and that Lakshman Rekha should not be crossed by anybody.”

The top court’s decision also led to a sparring between the former Congress chief, Rahul Gandhi, and Mr. Rijiju, who questioned the Congress’s record.

“Speaking truth is patriotism, not treason. Telling the truth is loving the country, not being a traitor. Listening to the truth is Rajdharma. To crush the truth is arrogance of power,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.

In response, Mr. Rijiju said these were empty words and that the Congress had been the “anti-thesis of freedom, democracy and respect for institutions”. “This party has always stood with Breaking India forces and left no opportunity to divide India,” tweeted the Law Minister, adding, “During the Anna Movement and the other anti-corruption movements too, those who were not toeing the UPA line were subjected to bullying, harassment, intimidation and arrests. All this under the watchful eyes of the UPA!”

Responding to the Law Minister’s ‘Lakshman Rekha’ comment, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury pointed to the Constitutional scheme of division of powers that made the executive accountable to legislature, which, in turn, was answerable to the people.

“Before talking about the Lakshman Rekha, the BJP should also remember its own actions in devaluing Parliament. By doing so, they seek to escape from accountability,” Mr. Yechury said, while pointing out that under the Modi government, 326 people had been arrested under the sedition law but only six convicted.

“This is gross abuse of the law that has been taking place under the Modi government. This law should be scrapped and removed from the statute books...The Supreme Court must not wait for this government’s review and proceed to scrap the anachronistic Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, when it resumes hearing in July 2022,” the CPI(M) leader added.

CPI general secretary D. Raja called it a vindication of his long-held position and tweeted: “In 2011 itself, I moved a Private Member’s Bill in the Rajya Sabha for abolishing Section 124A. Nation and the Government are not the same thing. Criticism is what makes democracy healthy. Sedition must go!”

Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha member, Mahua Moitra, who was one of the petitioners in the case, tweeted, “Victory! Supreme Court stays Sec 124A- no new cases can be filed, existing cases can apply for bail & release immediately”.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Jha said the Centre had blurred the line between criticising the government and State by filing sedition cases against critics of the government. Lok Sabha member from the Bahujan Samaj Party, Danish Ali, said: “Hundreds of innocent people are in jail under Section 124A and both Central and State governments used the law to target political rivals”.

“Whosoever tries to raise voice against the BJP government, the BJP brings false cases to suppress such persons. This law was misused against me also in Uttar Pradesh,” Rajya Sabha member from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Sanjay Singh, tweeted.

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