Congress asks will Modi govt narrow down scope of application of sedition laws

The Congress in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday accused the Narendra Modi government of misusing the sedition law, while referring the arrest of 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi by the Delhi police in connection with the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

The Union government was asked if it was planning to dilute the law, in light of the observations made by a Delhi court while granting bail to Disha Ravi.

Senior Congress politician Manish Tewari claimed that the latest manifestation of misuse of sedition law is the Disha Ravi case.

“The minister should read the judgment which makes it very obvious that the Delhi Police absolutely and miserably failed to produce any evidence linked to the charge of sedition. Given the law is misused as demonstrated by your figures, will the government further narrow down the scope of the application of Section 124A,” he said.

According to Tewari MP, Section 124A was being misused to suppress freedom of expression.

Responding to the Congress leader, Kishan Reddy, Minister of State for Home Affairs, said that a committee on Criminal Law Reforms under the chairmanship of the vice-chancellor, National Law University, Delhi was formed in February 2020.

“Union Home Minister Amit Shah has written to the Chief Ministers of all states, judicial officers, various varsities and law universities, law institutes seeking suggestions on the proposed amendments. After the report is prepared, it will be discussed in parliament,” the minister said.

Replying to another Congress leader A. Revanth Reddy who sought the number of cases registered under the offence of sedition across the country during the last 10 years, the conviction rate and the steps taken for their speedy trial, Kishan Reddy tabled a written response to the question in the House, saying that 47 cases of sedition were registered in 2014; 30 in 2015; 35 in 2016; 51 in 2017; 70 in 2018 and 93 in 2019.

The Congress MP was not satisfied with the response and said he had asked details for the past 10 years, but the information was provided only from 2014-2019.

“Giving half information is taking the house towards a wrong direction. After 2014, anyone who criticises the government’s policy is charged with sedition. In 2019, the conviction rate for sedition was 3.3%. This means these are politically motivated cases. If a youth leader is booked for sedition and the cases drags for 4-5 year, he/she is not in a position to get a job, passport, visa. Activists like Disha Ravi are charged, but they are not able to prove anything in the court,” he added.