New Delhi: The Law Commission has said that every citizen of the country had the right to voice his opinion even if it meant dissent with the policy of the government of the day. It added that a person should not be charged with sedition for voicing their thoughts which may not be in accordance with the government. Every person had the right and freedom to express their love for the country in their own way.
The Law Commission, headed by Justice (retired) BS Chauhan while speaking on a consultation paper on the sedition law- 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on Thursday, said that the law has to be seen from a broader perspective and should only be invoked in cases where the intention is either to overthrow the government by illegal ways or disrupt public harmony. It added that the government, NGOs, academicians and lawmakers would look into the same so that a pro-public and friendly approach is taken towards the citizens of the country.
The panel said,”In a democracy, singing from the same book is not a benchmark of patriotism. People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way. For doing the same, one might indulge in constructive criticism or debates, pointing out the loopholes in the policy of the Government.”
On freedom of speech and expression, the Commission said, “Expressions used in such thoughts might be harsh and unpleasant to some, but that does not render the actions to be branded seditious. Section 124A should be invoked only in cases where the intention behind any act is to disrupt public order or to overthrow the Government with violence and illegal means.”
Throwing light upon the current state of affairs, the Commission said that merely expressing frustration over policies of the government, calling India not safe for women or speaking against the colour obsession Indians have cannot be termed as seditious. The panel added, “Berating the country, or a particular aspect of it, cannot and should not be treated as sedition.”
It went on to make a strong statement that “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 the national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech,” said the panel. The Commission also laid out ten issues regarding the Sedition law.