The Congress on Friday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government is planning to make the colonial-era sedition law more draconian and that it was giving a message that the legislation will be used against Opposition leaders, reported The Indian Express.
The statement came after the Law Commission proposed retaining the law with key amendments. The commission said that calling the law part of a “colonial legacy” is not a valid ground for its repeal, adding that the jail term under the law should be increased from three years to seven years.
The law, under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, was put in abeyance by the Supreme Court last. It had also requested state governments and the Centre to not file any new cases under the rule till it is re-examined.
On Friday, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said at a press conference that the BJP, through its agencies, was intending to use sedition “as a tool to subverse, subjugate and silence dissent”.
“This government has obliquely declared its clear intent to continue its selective and partisan misuse of this law against political dissent,” he said.
Noting that the Supreme Court has put the law on hold, Singhvi said it was astonishing that Law Commission has recommended not only retaining it but making it harsher and more ferocious.
“This is a terrible, tragic, and treacherous development,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “The BJP is planning to become draconian, drastic and deadly by misuse of a colonial-era law.”
Singhvi added the commission, in its proposal, did not provide any additional safeguard of limitations to prevent the abuse of the law.
“It has sent a clear signal as to the colonial mindset of this government,” he claimed. “A colonial mindset coupled with a signal sent to the nation that we intend to retain this draconian provision as a threat to you, as a threat upon you, as a threat against freedom of speech, thought, and action, which is the essence of democracy itself.”
Rajya Sabha MP and former Law Minister Kapil Sibal said he is disturbed by the commission’s recommendations.
“These recommendations themselves are contrary to the ethos of the Republic,” Sibal said at a press conference. “They are contrary to the essence of the very Republic, they are contrary to the very foundations of the Republic.”
He added: “They have given the status of the government as if the government is the state. The government is installed through the will of the people; it does not represent the state. It works for the state. This is a law that is conceptually flawed.”
Pane’s recommendations not binding: Law minister
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal said that the panel’s recommendations are not binding.
“This report is one of the stages of a comprehensive consultation process, it is always the priority of the government to protect the interests of all stakeholders,” he added.