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September 25, 2023 3:50 pm

Law panel backs sedition law; says it should be retained with safeguards to prevent misuse

New Delhi, June 2

The Law Commission has backed the penal provision for the offence of sedition, saying repealing it altogether can have serious adverse ramifications for the security and integrity of the country.

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code dealing with sedition is at present under abeyance following directions of the Supreme Court issued in May 2022.

The Commission said repealing the provision on the mere basis that certain countries have done so is essentially turning a blind eye to the glaring ground realities existing in India and that it can be retained with certain safeguards to prevent its misuse.

Amid allegations of misuse, there have been demands for the repeal of the provision.

In its report submitted to the government recently, the panel said cognizant of the views on the misuse of Section 124A, it recommends that model guidelines curbing them be issued by the Centre.

“In this context, it is also alternatively suggested that a provision analogous to Section 196(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) may be incorporated as a proviso to Section 154 of the CrPC, which would provide the requisite procedural safeguard before filing of an FIR with respect to an offence under Section 124A of the IPC,” chairman of the 22nd Law Commission Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi (retd) said in his covering letter to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.

While it is imperative to lay down certain procedural guidelines for curbing any misuse of Section 124A dealing with sedition by law enforcement authorities, any allegation of misuse of the provision does not by implication warrant a call for its repeal, the report said.

The Commission also said that sedition being a “colonial legacy” is not a valid ground for its repeal.

In its report submitted to Meghwal, the Law Commission also said the existence of laws such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the National Security Act does not by implication cover all elements of the offence envisaged under Section 124A of the IPC.

“Further, in the absence of a provision like Section 124A of the IPC, any expression that incites violence against the government would invariably be tried under the special laws and counter-terror legislations, which contain much more stringent provisions to deal with the accused,” the report ‘Usage of the Law of Sedition’ said.

It observed that each country’s legal system grapples with its own different set of realities.

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