Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday the government is in the process of reviewing the sedition law under the Law Commission. Rijiju said the Home Ministry has asked for a report to be submitted on the issue at the earliest.
Rijiju said in the upper house of Parliament that sedition cases were often found to be responsible for violating the right to freedom of speech.
“The provisions (of the sedition law) are very wide. Anyone who speaks against the government established by the law can be booked under the sedition law,” Rijiju said in response to a question.
“Often the sedition charge is found to be violative of Article 19(1)(a), freedom of speech and expression,” he said.
Asking supplementaries to the question raised by Shiv Sena member Anil Desai, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad sought that inciting of communal sentiments should be included in the law. Janata Dal United leader Sharad Yadav also demanded that the law must be scrapped.
Rijiju said in Rajya Sabha that a Law Commission report in 1997 had submitted that the law on sedition was defective in nature, but it did not ask for its review or deletion.
The 156th report of the Law Commission, released in 2006, also sought substitution of the word “sedition” but did not ask for its deletion.
“… reports and suggestions have come that there should be a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system in the country… sedition law has also been brought under this scrutiny, that there must be some amendment to it because the meaning is very wide,” he said.
Rijiju said the government wants the Law Commission to take immediate steps to address the issue over this law.
“There are cases and concerns are being raised. That is why I would like to quote the reports and we would like to see that the Law Commission takes steps as early as possible so that the concerns raised in the country are addressed,” the minister said.
He said that the Home Ministry has, from time to time, the latest in 2012, written to the Law Ministry to speed up the process.
Speaking on similar lines, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament: “The Law Commission is reviewing (the law); we have asked the Law Commission to give the report soon.”
Ghulam Nabi Azad suggested that speeches which incite communal sentiments should also be included in the category of sedition.
Replying to Azad’s statement, Rajnath Singh said: “We agree 100 percent; there should be action against those who divide on communal lines.”
In his replies, Rijiju also defended the government over the Jawaharlal Nehru University case, and clarified that the Centre was not involved in the filing of the sedition cases against leaders like CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who went to the campus.
“The JNU case is sub judice; investigation is going on… How are you directly accusing the government of taking action against students? There are cases against these students. There are some cases against politicians also not filed in Delhi. It’s not the action of the government of India,” he said.
Giving relevant statistics, Rijiju said that in 2014 the highest number of sedition cases in a year, 16, were filed in Bihar, in which 28 people were arrested. Jharkhand came second, Kerala third, and Odisha fourth on this count, he said.