The Law Commission observed in a consultation paper that criticizing the country or an aspect of it cannot be treated as “sedition” and the charge can only be invoked in cases where the intention is to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means.
It also noted that in order to study revision of section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deals with sedition, it should be taken into consideration that the United Kingdom, which introduced the section in the IPC, abolished the sedition laws ten years ago.
The paper also cited examples of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who was charged with sedition over the alleged anti-India slogans on the campus.
Dissent and criticism are essential ingredients of a robust public debate on policy issues as part of a vibrant democracy, it observed, and therefore, every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinised to avoid unwarranted restrictions.
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,” the commission added.