Sedition law “very wide”, needs “some amendments”: Govt

Admitting that the sedition law is “very wide”, the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday (Mar 16) acknowledged the need for “some amendments”, amid demands from Opposition in Rajya Sabha for scrapping the provision.

A careful reading of the provision also shows that anybody who speaks against the Government established by the law can be booked under the sedition law, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said during Question Hour.

He also said that it is often found that the sedition charge is found to be violative of Article 19(1)(a) which deals with ‘freedom of speech and expression’.

Rijiju, however, rejected the charge that the provision was being rampantly used, saying that except for one case involving Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students, most of the cases have been registered outside Delhi.

Responding to JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav’s demand for all-party meeting, Home Minister Rajnath Singh agreed to consult all parties on the scrapping of the issue but he wanted all of them to wait till Law Commission submits its recommendations.

To a question by Shiv Sena’s Anil Desai who favoured a strong sedition law, Rijiju said it was a “very important as well as a very big question” but flagged previous Law Commission reports that said the provision was “defective”. However, he said, the Commission has not sought for its deletion.

“The total provision in the section, we will find that it is very wide. That means, if you read carefully, it says that anybody who speaks against the Government established by the law can be booked under the sedition law. So, this sedition law also has been brought under the scrutiny, that there must be some amendment to it, because the meaning is very wide,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said half of the parties of the country would be anti-national if there is a ban on speaking against the government, if one goes by the definition of the provision. He also wanted to know whether those engaged in “communal divide” would also be brought under the ambit of sedition law.

Referring to the JNU case, he said the subject was sub judice and hastened to add that he was not “defending the action of the Delhi Police” but “just barely stating the facts”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 17, 2016)

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