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Section 124A dealing with Sedition law should be retained; LCI says & suggests increase in punishment

IndiaSection 124A dealing with Sedition law should be retained; LCI says & suggests increase in punishment

the Law Commission of India (LCI) has recommended retaining section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

In its most recent report, the Law Commission of India (LCI) has recommended retaining section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with the sedition law. However, the LCI suggests incorporating certain safeguards to prevent its misuse and proposes an increase in punishment.

The 22nd LCI, headed by former Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi of the Karnataka High Court, who had previously presided over the Hijab case in 2022, has made these recommendations.

The LCI emphasizes that repealing this legal provision could have severe adverse consequences for the country’s security and integrity. Thus, it recommends preserving the 153-year-old colonial law on sedition in India.

The LCI’s report suggests retaining section 124A of the IPC but introducing amendments to clarify its usage by incorporating the judicial law of Kedar Nath Singh versus Bihar state.

Currently, section 124A carries a penalty of life imprisonment or imprisonment for up to three years. However, the Commission’s latest report proposes increasing the jail term from three to seven years to prevent the misuse of sedition laws.

In May 2022, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by former Chief Justice Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana, decided to put the provision in abeyance instead of ruling on the constitutional validity of sedition laws.

Currently, there are several pending petitions regarding the constitutional validity of sedition law awaiting adjudication by the Supreme Court.

The sedition law, which criminalizes acts creating “disaffection towards the government,” was introduced into the penal code in 1890, 57 years before India gained independence and nearly 30 years after the IPC was established.

The LCI’s recommendations came after the Central government informed the Supreme Court that it would reconsider whether section 124A should be retained.

The LCI emphasizes that the continued existence of a government established by law is vital for the security and stability of the state. Therefore, it deems it imperative to retain section 124A and prevent subversive activities from taking hold.

The LCI also argues that the sedition law represents a reasonable restriction on the right to free speech. It asserts that the mere fact that a law has colonial origins does not automatically justify its repeal.

The report further highlights that without section 124A, expressions inciting violence against the government would be tried under other special laws and counter-terrorism legislation, which contain more stringent provisions to deal with such cases.

Repealing section 124A of the IPC based solely on the actions of other countries would disregard the distinct ground realities existing in India, according to Justice Awasthi, who leads the LCI.

The Commission clarifies that individuals are free to engage in constructive criticism of their government in a democratic setup. However, section 124A of the IPC aims to penalize the harmful tendency to incite violence or cause public disorder under the guise of exercising the right to freedom of speech and expression.

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