The reasons Law Commission gave while recommending a stronger sedition law

Source: The post is based on the article “The reasons Law Commission gave while recommending a stronger sedition law” published in the Indian Express on 5th June 2023

What is the News?

The 22nd Law Commission has said that the sedition needs to be retained, but certain amendments could be made for greater clarity regarding its usage.

What is Sedition?

Must read: Section 124 A or Sedition law

What are the Law Commission’s recommendations on Sedition?

Must read: Sedition law can be retained but with safeguards: Law Commission

The Commission recommended three changes to the law on sedition. These are

First, the report asked to include the ratio of the Kedar Nath ruling into the provision by adding the words “with a tendency to incite violence or cause public disorder.” The report also defines tendency to incite violence.

Second, the report suggests enhancing the imprisonment for sedition to “remove an oddity.” One of the criticisms against the provision is that it leaves judges with wide discretion on sentencing.

Section 124A has a jail term of up to three years or life imprisonment. This means that the judges either held imprisonment for life or held imprisonment up to three years only, but nothing in between. The Law Commission has now proposed enhancing the jail term up to seven years or life imprisonment.

Note: The 42nd Law Commission report, in 1971, recommended that the minimum punishment be only fine.

Third, to prevent misuse of the law, the report suggested including procedural safeguards.

What are the reasons given by the committee to retain the sedition law?

To safeguard the unity and integrity of India: The report cited threats to India’s internal security, including Maoist extremism, militancy and ethnic conflict in the north-east, terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and other secessionist activities. These necessitate retaining the law on sedition.

Reasonable restriction: The Commission justified criminalising sedition as it is a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) of the Constitution (which deals with restrictions on the right to freedom of speech, assembly, etc. under Article 19(1)).

Realities differ in every jurisdiction: Britain and many other colonial countries outlawed Sedition but that does not mean India should outlaw it too. This is because a) the courts of competent jurisdictions like the US, the UK, etc. had their own history, geography, population, diversity, laws, etc which are not compatible with Indian circumstances and b) they have merged their sedition law with counter-terror legislation.

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