The Criminal Law Reform Committee recommended amendments to the Sedition Act

Either withdraw the law completely or modify the article in question, says an official

Either withdraw the law completely or modify the article in question, says an official

An expert panel set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to suggest reforms to the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) has recommended amendments to the Sedition Act, a senior government official has said . The Hindu.

The Committee for Criminal Law Reforms appointed by the MHA in 2020 submitted a comprehensive report in March, which, among other sections of the IPC, also considered ICC Section 124-A or sedition.

The official said there were two schools of thought – either withdraw the law altogether or change the particular section.

“The panel was broadly of the view that if sedition could be dropped and included as a subset within a broader spectrum of crimes against the state. A person cannot be made to languish in prison for writing a newspaper article. It must be seen whether this article has led to serious public order problems, a mere presumption is not enough,” the official said.

A questionnaire sent out by the committee for public comment in 2020 had, under a category called “Offences against the State”, asked “Does the offense of sedition under Section 124-A require an omission or modification in terms of definition, scope and knowledge? ?”

In addition to the IPC, the committee also reviewed and recommended changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act 1872.

“Simply criticizing the state should not be enough to invoke sedition, that there is a guilty mind; Wasn’t such an act meant to disturb? The term sedition is colonial. When there is no king, how can a provision to protect the king be there? the official said, citing the report’s recommendations.

The committee broadly concluded that sedition can be amended and included in the category of crimes committed against the state to protect its sovereignty, integrity and security.

“There was an overwhelming consensus on the misuse of the sedition law. The law is misused to detain or arrest people for long periods without trial. The law should be changed to avoid indiscriminate arrests,” the official said.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), no less than 356 cases of sedition were recorded in the country between the years 2015 and 2020, during which 548 people were arrested. Only 62 cases were tried, there were acquittals in 55 cases and only 12 people in seven cases were convicted during the period.

In 2019, no less than 96 people were arrested for sedition, but only two were convicted and 29 people were acquitted. Of the 93 sedition cases recorded in 2019, the indictment was only filed in 40 cases.

On May 9, the MHA filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court informing the Supreme Court of its decision to “re-examine” and “re-examine” the Sedition Act in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s belief that the nation should work harder to get rid of “colonial baggage”, including outdated laws, while celebrating 75 years of independence under the banner of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

The maximum penalty for the crime is life imprisonment.