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Centre hints at dilution of vexed sedition law

The Centre has indicated that it was open to the idea of changing the controversial sedition law. Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that he was agreeable to the idea of an all-party meeting on the matter.

The government also conceded that the definition of sedition as provided for in the present law was very wide. “Presently, anybody who speaks against the government can be booked under sedition law. Amendments have been suggested because the definition is very wide. I would like to ask the Law Commission to consider a very comprehensive review,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said, replying to questions.

Rajnath Singh added to his junior Minister’s comments saying, “Law Commission was carrying out a review. Our government has said that they should submit the report as soon as possible.” Rijiju said the Law Commission, in its 42nd report, had noted that the sedition law was “defective” but it did not favour its deletion. He said that in another report too, the Commission sought a change in the definition of sedition but did not favour the scrapping of the law. Asked whether any time-frame has been fixed for the Law Commission to submit its report, Rijiju said the Home Ministry has written to Ministry of Law and Justice to speed up the process.

The government, however, rejected the Opposition charge that it was rampantly using the law and pointed out that except the one case of JNU, sedition cases have mostly been registered outside Delhi. Referring to the sedition cases registered against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Rijiju said, “It was registered in Telangana, not Delhi.”

Quoting figures from a report of National Crime Records Bureau, he said a total of 47 cases under the sedition law were reported across the country in 2014 of which the maximum 16 cases were registered in Bihar in which 28 arrests were made. “The second highest is Jharkhand,” said Rijiju, adding that Kerala and Odisha followed them.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh also expressed agreement with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad’s contention that tough action should be taken against those fanning communal tension.

“We are in cent percent agreement with the view of the Leader of Opposition that there should be tough action against those creating communal divide. Standing in this House, I appeal to all state governments to take tough action against those trying to create communal divide,” the Home Minister said.
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