The sedition law (under the IPC's Section 124A) has been a controversial topic in India for a long time and often gets reffered to as a remnant of the country's colonial past, which needs to be done away with.
By definition, sedition is when “any person by words either written or spoken, or by signs, or by representation, or otherwise, brings, or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.”
It is a non-bailable offence and its punishment includes imprisonment up to three years to a life term, to which a fine may be added.
The Supreme Court last year had ordered that the colonial era law must be kept on hold till the Centre reconsiders the provision. In an interim ruling, the top court had urged the government not to file a FIR under the sedition law while it was being reconsidered.
The Law Commission of India has now proposed retention of the sedition law with key amendments to it.
What the commission said: The commission in its report has clearly said that it holds the view that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code needs to be retained with certain amendments as recommended by the commission.
The recommendation of the commission: The commission has recommended the addition of a phrase “with a tendency to incite violence or cause public disorder" in the sedition law.
According to the commission’s report, the expression ‘Tendency’ means mere inclination to incite violence or public disorder rather than proof of actual violence or imminent threat to violence.
So as per the commission, if the amendment is done, the new definition of sedition law would be: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in India, with a tendency to incite violence or cause public disorder shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment or either description for a term which may extend to seven years, to which fine may be added, or with fine."
Further, the commission recommends that no FIR shall be registered under sedition law unless:
A police officer, not below the rank of an Inspector, conducts a preliminary inquiry and on the basis of the report of the said officer, the central government or the state government, as the case may be, grants permission for registering an FIR.
The commission was headed by former Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, who headed the bench which upheld the hijab ban in Karnataka's educational institutes.