Law Commission calls for re-think on sedition clause

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Context:

  • Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy, the Law Commission of India said.

Section 124A:

  • The Commission published a consultation paper recommending that it is time to re-think or even repeal the provision of sedition (Section 124A) from the Indian Penal Code.
  • The Commission has also posed the query that if contempt of court invites penal action, should “contempt of government” also attract punishment.
  • The Commission asked whether it would be “worthwhile” to rename Section 124A and find a suitable substitute for the term sedition.

Right to Free Speech:

  • The Commission seeks to consider that right to free speech and expression is an essential ingredient of democracy.
  • The Commission said an expression of frustration over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition.
  • It recommended that India should not retain the British era clause to oppress Indians, whereas Britishers have themselves abolished the law in their country.
  • It said every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinized to avoid unwarranted restrictions.

Safety valve:

  • The consultation paper was published a day after the Supreme Court lashed out at the forces while hearing a petition challenging the pan-India crackdown and arrests of five activists.
  • For merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day, a person should not be charged under the Section.
  • If the country is not open to positive criticism, there lies little difference between the pre- and post-Independence eras.
  • Right to criticize one’s own history and the right to offend are rights protected under free speech.

Law Commission calls for re-think on sedition clause

Way Forward:

  • In a democracy, singing from the same songbook is not a benchmark of patriotism.
  • People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way.
  • While it is essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech, the Commission said in its consultation paper.

Source:TH