Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

Law Commission calls for re-think on sedition clause

The News

  • The Law Commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.S. Chauhan, published a consultation paper recommending that it is time to re-think or even repeal the provision of sedition (Section 124A) from the Indian Penal Code.
  • The Commission has invited public opinion on the prospect of either redefining or doing away with Section 124A in the largest democracy of the world.
  • The Commission has also posed the query that if contempt of court invites penal action, then “contempt of government” should also attract punishment.
  • The Commission asks whether it would be worthwhile to rename Section 124A and find a suitable substitute for the term ‘sedition’.

 

Background

  • A petition was filed in Supreme Court challenging the Pan- India crackdown and arrests of five activists.
  • A consultation paper was published by Law Commission, a day after the hearing.

 

Arguments given by Law Commission against Section 124A

  • Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy
  • Why should India retain sedition when the British, who introduced sedition to oppress Indians, have themselves abolished the law in their country.
  • For merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day, a person should not be charged under the Section.
  • If the country is not open to positive criticism, there lies little difference between the pre- and post-Independence eras. Right to criticise one’s own history and the right to offend are rights protected under free speech.
  • While it is essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech
  • In a democracy, singing from the same songbook is not a benchmark of patriotism. People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way
  • Also an expression of frustration over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition.

Note– Sedition attracts imprisonment from three years to life.

 

About Law Commission

  • Law Commission of India is not a constitutional body or a statutory body.
  • It is just an ad hoc and advisory body established by an order of the central government whose work is to make recommendations for law reforms such as amendments and updations of prevalent and inherited laws.
  • None of these recommendations are binding upon the Government.

 

Who will head the of Law Commission?

  • It is completely at the discretion of the Government.
  • However, it is a convention that a retired judge of Supreme Court heads India’s Law Commission. Further, the States also can constitute their own law commissions.

 

Composition of Law Commission

  • The Commission is headed by a full-time Chairperson. It membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government. For example, the 21st Law commission would be comprised of:
    • A full-time Chairperson.
    • Four full-time Members (including a Member-Secretary).
    • Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex offcio Member.
    • Secretary, Legislative Department as ex offcio Member.
    • Not more than five part-time Members.
  • The Commission is established for a fixed tenure (generally three years) and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • Before finalising its recommendations, the Commission needs to consult the law ministry.
  • Law Commission works in close co-ordination and under the general instruction of Ministry of Law and Justice. It generally acts as the initiation point for law reform in the country. Internally, the Law Commission works in a research-oriented manner.

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