The Law Commission is reviewing sedition law and preparing a report on whether it should be scrapped or not.
Besides holding consultations with stakeholders, seeking opinions of legal luminaries and conducting debates, the commission is examining a private member’s bill moved by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
The Parliament had approved introduction of a private member’s bill by Tharoor on December 28, 2015. The bill seeks to replace Section 124(a) of the Indian Penal Code with a new provision.
Tharoor’s bill says that sedition charges can be imposed on an individual only when his/her actions lead to or incite violence and results in the commission of an offence, which is punishable with life imprisonment under the IPC.
“The amended provision will promote the freedom of speech and the right to express dissent against the government, while ensuring safeguards against the use of words to incite violence,” the bill reads.
A senior Law Commission official told ET: “Besides holding consultations, we are examining the bill which is pending in Parliament. If after perusal and holding debates, consultations with legal luminaries and stakeholders, the commission concurs with the amendments proposed in the bill, we may suggest addition(s) or deletions in the existing bill.”
Another senior official of the Law Commission added: “The constitutional validity of the sedition law has already been upheld. The commission has to suggest whether the time has come to do away with it, whether the definition of sedition needs a relook. The misuse of this law is also to be factored in before reaching a conclusion.”
As per available information, the commission is perusing the bill and will reach a conclusion after holding a detailed discussion.
“Mere words or signs criticising the measures or administrative actions of the government will not constitute sedition. Nehruji had stated of sedition that ‘the sooner we get rid of it the better’. The UK has taken his advice but India hasn’t. It’s time we did,” Tharoor had written after introducing the bill.
Even the outgoing President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, had called for a thorough revision of the IPC to meet the changing needs of the 21st century.