Term 'sedition' may go but the provision would remain the same: Expertstext_fields
New Delhi: The Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, has introduced three bills pertaining to the legal system, with an emphasis on the repeal of the contentious sedition law. However, legal experts in the country argue that the provisions for punishment under sedition charges would remain the same despite the removal of the term "sedition."
Amit Shah's announcement of a new bill aimed at replacing the existing Indian Penal Code (IPC) and repealing the offence of sedition has ignited a heated debate among legal experts and citizens alike. The bill, known as the Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita Bill, 2023, seeks to eliminate the criminalization of sedition under IPC section 124A. Shah emphasized, "Everyone has the right to speak. We are completely repealing sedition."
However, legal minds questioned the new bill's intentions. Lawyers and criminal law experts say that the term "sedition" has been removed, and the proposed legislation contains provisions that seemingly mirror offences covered by the sedition law.
Under the new bill, acts that "excite or attempt to excite secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities, or encourage feelings of separatist activities or endanger the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India" will be punishable under Section 150.
Critics argue that the language used in Section 150 raises concerns about its precision and potential consequences. Experts cited that fundamental principles of criminal law appeared to have been overlooked during drafting while highlighting vague terms such as "subversive activities" and "feelings of separatist activities."
Notably, the new bill does more than simply replace the existing sedition law. Although the term "sedition" is absent, the provisions listed under Section 150 of the bill encompass offences that experts claim expand upon the current definition of sedition.
Moreover, the new legislation proposes stricter penalties than the existing sedition law. Currently, sedition carries a punishment of life imprisonment or imprisonment of up to three years. The new provision would extend the potential jail term to up to seven years, raising concerns about proportionality and discretion.
While the bill aims to reshape legal norms surrounding speech and dissent, critics assert that the vague language and heightened penalties of the new provisions could inadvertently infringe upon freedom of expression and lead to potential misuse of the law.