Anyone opposing govt, Modi charged with sedition: CPIM

The demand for scrapping the sedition clause gathered some pace after Delhi Police earlier this week filed a chargesheet against Kanhaiya Kumar and nine others on charges of raising anti-India slogans in JNU during a protest against the execution of Parli

Describing the recent chargesheet against Kanhaiya Kumar and others as a "vindictive" action by the ruling BJP, the CPM has demanded the scrapping of "draconian" sedition from penal code, which it said is being used to "suppress dissent and political opposition".

In an editorial in party mouthpiece Peoples Democracy, the party said the sedition clause has been used "indiscriminately" by the police and various governments to "target" political opponents and those involved in leading popular struggles despite the Supreme Court reading down Section 124(A) in its Kedarnath Singh judgement.

The Supreme Court had said that sedition clause is applicable only when there is violence or explicit incitement of violence, it said while referring to instances where it was invoked on people for not standing up in a cinema hall when the national anthem was being played.

"Under the Modi regime, anyone who opposes the government, or, criticises the prime minister is considered to be anti-national and thus, liable to be charged with sedition... As long as the sedition clause remains in the statute book, notwithstanding the Supreme Court clarification, it is liable to be misused by the powers that be," it said.

Besides the charge sheet against former JNUSU leader Kumar and others, the editorial also cited the recent instances like those reported from Assam where sedition charges were invoked against prominent intellectual Hiren Gohain, activist Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta for their criticism of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

"The use of draconian laws to suppress dissent and political opposition must stop. The first step in this direction is to scrap the sedition clause," it said.

The editorial also referred to the misuse of laws with preventive detention powers and deniability of bail like the National Security Act (NSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

“Recently, three people accused in a cow slaughter case in Bulandshahr have been booked under the NSA. At the same time, those accused in the killing of Inspector Subodh Singh in the same incident have not been charged under the NSA. Eight of the civil rights activists arrested in the so-called Elgaar Parishad conspiracy case are languishing in jail since they are booked under the provisions of the UAPA,” it added.

The demand for scrapping sedition clause gathered some pace after the Delhi Police earlier this week filed the charge sheet against Kumar and nine others on charges of raising anti-India slogans in JNU during a protest against the execution of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru.

On Wednesday, senior Congress MP Kapil Sibal tweeted, "scrap sedition law, a colonial hangover. Real sedition is when those in power manipulate institutions, misuse the law, breach peace and security by inciting violence. Punish them in 2019 (elections). Sarkar badlo, Desh bachao (Change the government, Save the nation)."

In response, several people asked him on Twitter whether Congress would scrap it if it comes to power in 2019.

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