Sedition law: Congress poll promise gets BJP’s goat

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New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday slammed the Congress promise in its manifesto to wind up the sedition law, saying the party was encouraging anti-national sentiments and strengthening the hands of secessionists.

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code deals with sedition against the state and attracts three years to life imprisonment.

Addressing a rally at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, Modi said, “The Congress wants to encourage those who burn the Tricolour, do not chant ‘Jai Hind’ like you and me and instead make divisive cries like “Bharat tere tukre tukre”, play into foreign hands, disrespect the Constitution and break statues of saint-like Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar.”

“Shouldn’t we have a sedition law to deal with those who work against the country and its Constitution,” he asked. The Congress wanted to scrap the sedition law, he added.

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Remarking that the Congress can stoop too low to come back to power, he said, “Is it not a step to strengthen the hands of secessionists? Is the Congress with secessionists or patriots?”

Earlier on Tuesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had hit out at the Congress saying it was making “unimplementable and dangerous promises”.

With the BJP equating the sedition law with national security, the Congress promise may have stirred the hornet’s nest. But the law commission recommended doing away with the Colonial era relic not too long ago.

In August 2018, the commission invited public opinion on the repeal or restructuring of Section 124A saying the right to free speech and expression was an “essential ingredient of democracy”.

In a consultation paper published later, the Centre’s top legal advisory body said an expression of disappointment over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition and India should not retain the sedition law, which was introduced by British to oppress Indians.

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Interestingly, the record of the Congress on sedition isn’t without blemishes. In 2012, the Congress-led UPA government faced severe criticism when it jailed cartoonist Aseem Trivedi under the sedition law.

Seven years later, the party in its manifesto has said the sedition law has been misused and, in any event, has become redundant because of subsequent laws.

Meanwhile, in the JNU sedition case, the Delhi government has sought a month’s time to decide whether or not to grant sanction for prosecution of Kanhaiya Kumar and others.

–IANS

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