The 279th report of the Law Commission has recommended the retention of sedition in Art 124A of the Indian Penal Code and has proposed that the punishment for sedition be increased to life imprisonment or for a term of upto seven years or with a fine.
The report of the Law Commission of India headed by Retd Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, dismisses demands for the repeal of the colonial -era law and says that is not ground for its repeal. The “allegations” of misuse are also not grounds for repeal, the Law Commission report held.
What the Law Commission terms as “misuse” is an unfortunate dismissal of the testimony after testimony of the stigma, harassment and the punishing process to secure justice and freedom from the charge of sedition. According to data of the National Crime Records Bureau, 548 persons were arrested for sedition in 356 cases registered between 2015 and 2020. Of those arrested, only 12 were convicted.
In 2021, journalists Kishorchandra Wangkhem and Kamal Shukla, charged with sedition, had filed petitions challenging Sec 124-A in the Supreme Court of India. Nine other petitions were filed by other groups and individuals, including the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Major General S.G. Vombatkere, the Editors Guild of India, The Journalists Association of Assam, former Union minister and editor Arun Shourie, etc
In May 2022, the Supreme Court said it would decide whether to refer the matter to a seven-Judge Bench but after the Union Government said it would re-examine and re-consider the law, the Supreme Court ordered that ‘no coercive action’ would be taken in sedition cases on May 11th, 2022. A three judge bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said that, “in the interest of justice, it hopes and expects states and Centre will refrain from registering any fresh FIR, continue with investigation or take any coercive measure by invoking section 124A of IPC, while the law is under consideration”.
Now, the Law Commission’s report says that Section I 24A of IPC has its utility in combating anti-national and secessionist elements and safeguard the integrity of the nation!