"The BJP uses the law of sedition as a tool of subversing, subjugating, and silencing dissent. The BJP government now plans to become more draconian, drastic, and deadly than the colonial regime," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is also a noted lawyer, alleged.
NEW DELHI — A day after the Law Commission recommended that the IPC’s Section 124A (sedition) should not be retained but also made harsh, the Congress on Friday said that the BJP wants to make sedition law more draconian and has given a message ahead of the next year general election that it will used in a one-sided manner, particularly against opposition leaders.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters here, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “In a terrible, tragic, and treacherous development, the Law Commission has recommended that Section 124A of the IPC should not only be retained, but also made more harsh.”
“The BJP uses the law of sedition as a tool of subversing, subjugating, and silencing dissent. The BJP government now plans to become more draconian, drastic, and deadly than the colonial regime,” Singhvi, who is also a noted lawyer, alleged.
He said that a message of colonial mindset has been given that there will be a distance between the ruler and the ruled and through this law, the foundations of the republic will be uprooted.
“A message has been given ahead of the general election that we will use this in a one-sided manner particularly against opposition leaders,” he claimed.
Singhvi contended that in a nutshell, the Law Commission proposal makes the existing sedition law far more draconian, invasive and prejudicial by enhancing the lower end of the punishment from three to seven years.
“It ignores the spirit of the Supreme Court proceedings in May and October last year which had rendered the entire offense of sedition in the country inoperative and clearly intended it to be repealed,” he said.
His remarks came a day after the Law Commission, in its report to the government, said it is of the view that Section 124A needs to be retained, though certain amendments could be introduced to bring about greater clarity regarding usage of the provision and stressed that sedition being a “colonial legacy” is not a valid ground for its repeal.
Slamming the BJP, Singhvi, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, said: “There has been a massive rise in sedition cases since 2014 with an annual rise of 28 per cent in sedition cases for the period between 2014 and 2020, compared to the yearly average between 2010 and 2014.”
He pointed out that 12 sedition cases were filed during the pandemic against those who raised concerns over lack of ventilators, food distribution or handling of the issue of migrant labourers.
“In total, 21 sedition cases were filed against journalists. Since 2018, they have been arrested for reportage on the farm laws, Covid-19, the Hathras gang rape, citizenship and for being critical of the government,” he said, adding that 27 sedition cases were filed against those who protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the National Register for Citizens, while eight cases were filed against farmers protesting the now revoked farm laws.
Citing more examples of the sedition cases, the Congress said that they were filed across three BJP-ruled states against party MP Shashi Tharoor and several senior journalists.
Firing salvos at the government, Singhvi asked why it has not yet had the courage to do away with the sedition law despite the top court rendering it inoperative and making strong observations in that regard.
“Why have the cases of sedition burgeoned during the BJP regime? Is the government misusing it as a tool to curb criticism? Is this an initial step towards more stringent curbing of dissent ahead of the upcoming general elections?”
He also questioned as to why have the cases of sedition imposed only on the opposition leaders and dissidents, and how many BJP leaders have been charged under the law.
“Was the reference to the Law Commission by the Government of India merely a circuitous, circumvention of the true spirit of the Supreme Court observations and intended to legitimise and provide added legal cover to the pernicious concept of sedition?” he said.
Singhvi also asked why the government has not changed its “control freak” style and not been able to shed its colonial mindset. — IANS
Photo: Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi during a press conference, at AICC HQ in New Delhi, on Friday.