The law on sedition is under review of the Law Commission and the home ministry has asked for a report on the issue as soon as possible, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Rijiju also admitted in the upper house that the cases of sedition were often found to be violative of the right to freedom of speech.
“The provisions (of the sedition law) are very wide. Anyone who speaks against the government established by the law can be booked under the sedition law,” Rijiju said in response to a question.
“Often the sedition charge is found to be violative of Article 19(1)(a), freedom of speech and expression,” he said.
Asking supplementaries to the question raised by Shiv Sena member Anil Desai, Leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad sought that inciting of communal sentiments should be included in the law, while Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav demanded that the law be scrapped.
The minister informed the upper house that a Law Commission report in 1997 had admitted that the sedition law was defective, but did not ask for its deletion.
In 2006, the 156th report of the Law Commission also sought substitution of the word ‘sedition’ but did not ask for its deletion.
“… reports and suggestions have come that there should be a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system in the country… sedition law has also been brought under this scrutiny, that there must be some amendment to it because the meaning is very wide,” he said.
Rijiju said the government wants the Law Commission to take steps as soon as possible to address this law.
“There are cases and concerns are being raised. That is why I would like to quote the reports and we would like to see that the Law Commission takes steps as early as possible so that the concerns raised in the country are addressed,” the union minister said.
The home ministry has, from time to time, the latest in 2012, written to the law ministry to speed up the process, he said.
Speaking on similar lines, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said: “The Law Commission is reviewing (the law); we have asked the Law Commission to give the report soon.”
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad suggested that speeches inciting communal feelings also should be included in the category of sedition.
To this, Rajnath Singh said: “We agree 100 percent; there should be action against those who divide on communal lines.”
Rijiju also defended the government over the Jawaharlal Nehru University case, and clarified that the Centre was not involved in the filing of the sedition cases against leaders like Sitaram Yechury, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal who went to the campus.
“The JNU case is sub judice; investigation is going on… How are you directly accusing the government of taking action against students? There are cases against these students. There are some cases against politicians also not filed in Delhi. It’s not the action of the government of India,” he said.
Giving out figures, Rijiju said in 2014, the highest number of 16 sedition cases were filed in Bihar, in which 28 people were arrested. Jharkhand came second, Kerala third, and Odisha fourth on this count, he said.