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  India   Sedition law is being reviewed, too wide: Govt

Sedition law is being reviewed, too wide: Govt

AGE CORRESPONDENT
Published : Mar 17, 2016, 7:08 am IST
Updated : Mar 17, 2016, 7:08 am IST

The Narendra Modi government acknowledged that the definition of “sedition” was “very wide” in the law, and said on Wednesday that the Law Commission was now reviewing it.

The Narendra Modi government acknowledged that the definition of “sedition” was “very wide” in the law, and said on Wednesday that the Law Commission was now reviewing it. This came after some members in the Rajya Sabha demanded that the sedition law be scrapped as it was a “relic” of colonial rule.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh agreed to call an all-party meeting to discuss it after the Law Commission submits its report. The sedition issue has generated a lot of heat in the wake of the JNU controversy. The home minister said: “The Law Commission is carrying out a review regarding this law. Our government has said they should submit the report as soon as possible.” The Centre also rejected the Opposition charge that it was rampantly using the law, and noted that except in the case of JNU, sedition cases have mostly been filed outside Delhi.

“Anybody who speaks against the government can be booked under the sedition law. Amendments have been suggested because the definition is very wide. That is why concerns have been raised. I would like the ask the Law Commission to consider a very comprehensive review,” minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said in Question Hour. Mr Rijiju noted that the Law Commission had said in an earlier report that the sedition law was “defective” but did not favour its deletion. On another occasion, it had suggested changing the definition of sedition, but not scrapping of the law.

MoS home Kiren Rijiju, asked whether any timeframe had been fixed for the Law Commission to submit its report, said the home ministry had from time to time written to the law ministry to speed up the process. He rejected the Opposition’s charge that the NDA government was using the law rampantly, and noted, for instance, that the case of sedition against Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal had been “registered in Telangana, not Delhi”.

Giving National Crime Records Bureau statistics, he said a total of 47 cases under the sedition law were reported across the country in 2014, of which 16 cases had been registered in Bihar, in which 28 arrests were made. This was the highest in any state.

“The second highest is Jharkhand,” he said, adding that Kerala and Orissa follow them in descending order. He said while the Opposition was accusing the government of taking action against students, the fact was that cases had also been registered against politicians.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said that given the “wide definition” of sedition, as pointed out by the minister, “half the parties in the country 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 under the ambit of the sedition law after the review. Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said this was a law made by the British, and said that the government should get rid of this “colonial legacy”. The law, Mr Yadav insisted, “should be scrapped”, and he also sought an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.

The home minister said he agreed with Mr Azad on the need to take tough action against those fanning communal divisions. “We are in agreement with the view of the Leader of the Opposition that there should be tough action against those creating a communal divide. Standing in this House, I appeal to all state governments to take tough action against those trying to wage communal divides,” Mr Singh said.

Azad said the issue of sedition was never talked about in the past in the way it has been discussed in the past few days. “The sedition law needs to be revisited. You take action against those who shout slogans against the country. But even more dangerous are those who are engaged in carrying out a communal divide. Will this also come under the new sedition law ” the Congress leader said.

Mr Rijiju said no communal angle should be brought in when a law is enacted. D. Raja (CPI) asked: “What is the justification of slapping sedition charges against (JNU Students Union chief) Kanhaiya Kumar and other students We are demanding scrapping of the sedition law. I am asking the home minister to answer this question directly. What is the justification of slapping sedition charges against the students ” Responding on the JNU row, Mr Rijiju said the matter was “sub-judice... and there is already a case going on”.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi