Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar on Thursday urged the Bhima Koregaon Inquiry Commission to either repeal the sedition law or stop its misuse, The Indian Express reported.
The sedition law states that whoever “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India” can be held to have committed the offence of sedition.
The law falls under Indian Penal Code Section 124A. It prescribes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, with or without a fine.
Pawar said the law was introduced by the British in 1870 to suppress the Indian freedom struggle and control the uprisings.
“In recent times this section [sedition law] is often being misused against people who criticise the government, suppressing their liberty and tend to stifle any voice of dissent raised in a peaceful and democratic way,” Pawar said, according to The Hindu. “Hence, it is proposed that the misuse of Section 124A of IPC should be stopped with amendments or the said section be repealed.”
Pawar added that the Indian Penal Code provisions and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, or UAPA, were sufficient to protect the nation’s integrity.
The Nationalist Congress Party chief made the remarks in an affidavit to the Bhima Koregaon panel. The committee was formed to investigate the caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. The two-member panel, headed by retired High Court judge Justice JN Patel, was constituted in February 2018 by the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Pawar is scheduled to appear before the commission as a witness on May 5 and May 6, according to The Indian Express.
Pawar was earlier scheduled to depose before the commission on February 23 and 24 in Mumbai. However, he had then said that he needed more time to file an additional affidavit.
The panel had summoned Pawar in 2020 as well, but he was unable to appear before it due to Covid-19 restrictions.
‘IT Act is outdated’
In Thursday’s affidavit, Pawar also called the Information Technology Act, 2000, “outdated” and proposed some amendments.
The Act was drafted two decades ago and cited the problems caused by the circulation of fake news, information on social media and the use of morphed videos and audios for fake political propaganda, he said, according to The Indian Express.
“Cyber crimes have emerged as the number one organised crime syndicate in the world with...damage worth trillions of dollars...” he said. “Alternatively, the government may even contemplate a New Digital Act 2022 incorporating the above features and also including provisions of right to privacy, data protection, intellectual property...”