NEW DELHI: The sedition law, which is being reviewed by the Law Commission of India, may be further strengthened, the New Indian Express has learnt.
On Thursday, the matter was taken up for discussion in a high-level meeting which was attended by senior government officials.
The commission is yet to finalise its recommendations on whether the controversial law needs a review but the scope to widen implications of this law was discussed in detail, government sources said.
Broadening the current definition of sedition law by incorporating new provisions was also discussed, sources added.
Sedition is covered under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code which says "whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life... or with imprisonment which may extend to three years. In the meeting, it was discussed whether a clause of "showing disrespect to the nation", can be added to the definition of sedition.
However, some officials, who attended the meeting, conveyed that the scope of this law needs to be curtailed in view of the gross misuse of the law. A suggestion was also made to bring down the maximum punishment for the offence from life imprisonment to five years but there were also counter views on strengthening the controversial law and retaining life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for this offence, said a senior government official, on condition of anonymity.
"The commission is working on providing a clear definition to sedition. We are yet to arrive at a conclusion but different aspects are being considered to see whether the law needs to be strengthened or it needs to be curtailed," a source said.
The sedition law came into focus in 2016 after the JNU row in which three students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University were arrested for allegedly raising anti-national slogans. Critics of sedition law have even demanding to scrap of the law by calling it a "draconian law".
In March 2016, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had also said in Parliament that the definition of n is "very wide" and soon thereafter, the law commission received a reference from the government for consideration of the law on sedition.
The commission has been holding consultations with stakeholders, seeking opinions of legal luminaries and conducting debates, to examine the scope of this law. Besides holding consultation, the law panel has also been examining a private member's bill moved by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in this regard. On December 28, 2015, the Parliament had approved the introduction of Tharoor's private member's which 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 ion 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. ENDS