Monday, October 2, 2023

Law Minister Arjun Meghwal terms Law Commission report on sedition as persuasive, says Government will take an informed decision in public interest

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Union Minister for Law and Justice, Arjun Ram Meghwal, on Friday said the 279th Report released by the Law Commission of India, which suggested retention of Section 124A IPC, commony known as the Sedition law, was one of the steps in the extensive consultative process.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, the Minister said the recommendations made in the report were persuasive and not binding. 

He added that the Government would hold consultation with all other stakeholders and take an informed and reasoned decision in the public interest.

Also Read: Law Ministry disagrees with Law Commission view to not amend law on adverse possession

The 22nd Law Commission recently released its 279th Report, recommending retention of Section 124A of the India Penal Code (IPC) with more inclusive definition, procedural changes in registering First Investigation Report (FIR) and increase in punishment.

Chairperson of the Commission and former Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, Ritu Raj Awasthi, while releasing the report, suggested that it would be feasible to retain the Sedition law, in the larger interest of the security and stability of the nation.

As per Section 124A of IPC, “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 India, shall be punished with imprisonment 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.”

The Commission has proposed incorporation of “with tendency to incite violence and cause public disorder,” in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict in the case Kedarnath vs State (1962).

It suggested modification in Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 to ensure that an FIR under the said provision could only be filed after getting permission from the Central or state government. 

The Commission further proposed that the preliminary inquiry would be conducted by a police officer not below the rank of an Inspector and he would submit the report to the respective government.

Recommending that alternative punishment prescribed up to three years should be increased to seven years, it said this would provide a large ambit to the judges to pronounce punishment in accordance with the severity of cases. 

It would further bring the punishment for sedition at par with other offences prescribed under Chapter VI, “Offence against the State” of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Rejecting the contention of scrapping down the provision because other countries have repealed it, the Commission mentioned other factors such as population, diversities and law, which affected the jurisdiction in the UK, the US and India. 

On May 1 this year, Attorney General R. Venkataramani, appearing for the Union government, had suggested before the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, setting up a committee to review the legislation.

On May 11, 2022, the top court of the country, by way of an interim order, had put a halt on the enforcement of 124A on a petition filed by Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra, the Editors Guild of India, journalists and a few NGOs. 

The Apex Court suspended the registration of FIR and judicial proceedings related to Sedition law. The order by the top court of the country followed a submission made by the Union of India, to reconsider the 153-year-old provision.

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