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