MoS Reddy counters Cong on Sedition Law, says it has ‘no right’ to speak on democracy

Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy hit out at the Congress on Tuesday after it had accused the central government of misusing Sedition Law, saying the party has no right to speak on democracy.

Reddy’s remarks came in the Lok Sabha while replying to a question raised by senior Congress leader and MP from Punjab’s Anandpur Sahib constituency Manish Tewari.

“The less Congress speaks of misuse, the better it is. You (Congress) jailed J.P. Narayan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and others by misusing MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act). Congress has no right to speak on democracy,” Reddy said.

“You have jailed so many people in 1980 under TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act). You jailed journalists, students, politicians under MISA.”

Speaking during the Question Hour, Reddy was replying to question on details of the number of cases registered under the offence of sedition across the country during the last ten years including the current year.

Reddy said that Centre has no direct involvement in applying cases. “From investigation to filing of charge sheets and conviction is handled by state governments. Centre has no direct involvement in it. It is responsibility of the state governments only. The Centre government is only informed about the details so as it is put before the Parliament based on NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau).”

The Minister said that there is only one case of sedition registered in Delhi in 2019, one in 2018 and two cases in 2016.

Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states “whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”

Section 124A has been challenged in various courts in specific cases. The validity of the provision itself was upheld by a Constitution Bench in 1962, in Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar.

That judgment went into the issue of whether the law on sedition is consistent with the fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) which guarantees each citizen’s freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court laid down that every citizen has a right to say or write about the government, by way of criticism or comment, as long as it does not “incite people to violence” against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.