Law panel suggests increase in sentence period for sedition

Table of Contents

Context
The Law Commission of India in its 279th report on sedition has underlined more stringent sentence for sedition and effective procedural safeguard before any enquiry.
Background
  • In August 2018, the Law Commission of India recommended that it is time to re-think or repeal the Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that deals with sedition.
Highlights of the report:
  • The Law Commission has analysed that sedition being a ‘colonial legacy’is not a valid ground for law repeal but in view of the misuse of Section 124A.
  • The panel has recommended that the Centre should issue model guidelinesto curb any misuse.
  • They also suggested that a provision analogous to Section 196(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973may be incorporated as a proviso to Section 154 of CrPC, which would provide the requisite procedural safeguard before filing of an FIR with respect to an offence under Section 124A of IPC.
  • They also mentioned that in absence of a provision like Section 124A of IPC, any expression that incites violence against the governmentwould invariably be tried under the special laws and counter-terror legislation, which contain much more stringent provisions to deal with the accused.
Key Points:
  • The Law Commission, in its 279th report has recommended amending Section 124A.
  • It stated that, “the allegations of misuse do not warrant a repeal of Indian Penal Code Section 124A which criminalises sedition.”
  • Term of sentence:
  • They suggested to qualify that the law penalise only those “with a tendency to incite violence or cause public disorder,” and proposed enhancing the jail term up to seven years or life imprisonment.
  • Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:
  • The report also recommended adding a procedural safeguard as a proviso to Section 124A to state that no FIR shall be registered for sedition “unless a police officer, not below the rank of Inspector, conducts a preliminary inquiry and on the basis of the report made by the said police officer the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, grants permission for registering a First Information Report.
Type of Offence:
  • It is a non-bailable offence. Punishment under Section 124A ranges from imprisonment up to three years to a life term, to which a fine may be added.
  • A person charged under this law is barred from a government job.
Benefits Challenges
  • Made to safeguard national peace
  • To reduce criminal activities and violence in the country
  • Restrict communal clashes
  • Maintain harmony and misuse of powers
  • Powers in the hands of Police
  • Less involvement of stages in execution
  • Increase in term of sentence and affect the innocent failed to prove his/her innocence.
  • Misused for political benefits
Way forward:
  • Political democracy must be maintained: The dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy. They should not be constructed as sedition.
  • Involvement of Judiciary: The higher judiciary should use its supervisory powers to sensitize the magistracy and police to the constitutional provisions protecting free speech.
  • Changing the nature and scope: The definition of sedition should be narrowed down, to include only the issues pertaining to the territorial integrity of India as well as the sovereignty of the country.
  • Spreading awareness: Civil society must take the lead to raise awareness about the arbitrary use of Sedition law.

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