Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Wednedsay demanded that the sedition law be scrapped, accusing the Centre of misusing it. His comments come days after the Delhi Police charged former Jawaharlal Nehru University students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and eight others with sedition.
Kumar, Khalid and Bhattacharya were arrested in February 2016 on sedition charges for their involvement in a protest in which several students allegedly shouted anti-national slogans. The protest, which was against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, had led to outrage by Hindutva groups.
Sibal called the sedition law a “colonial hangover”. “Real sedition is when those in power manipulate institutions, misuse the law, breach peace and security by inciting violence,” he said on Twitter.
On Monday, the Congress and Left had questioned the sedition charges against the former JNU students. Former Union minister and Congress leader Chidambaram called the charge of sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar and others absurd. “If it takes 3 years and 1200 pages to make out a charge of sedition [based on a public speech], that alone exposes the motive of the government,” Chidambaram said on Twitter. “How many in the investigating team have read and understood section 124 A of the IPC and the case law on the section?”
The sedition law was passed by the British Raj in an obvious bid to clamp down on free speech which endangered its colonial rule. The Supreme Court in 1962 ruled that only speech which incites violence against the government is liable to be prosecuted as seditious. This definition means that prosecutions for sedition in India are rare.
Nearly 9,000 people, most of them villagers from fishing communities, were accused of sedition in 2012 for protesting against the building of the Kudankulam civil nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu during the previous government’s rule.