The Law Commission wants to retain the law against sedition. Since it ministers to justice, which is blind, it may have been afflicted with partial blindness too. The blindness of justice represents impartiality; the Law Commission’s blindness, being selective, must symbolise some other quality. It is blind to the targeted invocation of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, the law in question, against critics of the government. Yet that is one of the most recognisable features of the Narendra Modi-led dispensation. Instead, what it does see are threats to national security posed by anti-national folk and secessionists, especially by ‘radicalisation’ against India through social media, often with the help of adversarial ‘foreign powers’. The Law Commission report whips up bogeys inside and out. Since such subversive activities can overthrow the lawfully elected government by violent and illegal means — when did that ever happen in India? — Section 124A must be retained.
The picture is so bleak that this law, instead of being repealed as has been a long-standing demand, must be made stronger. The minimum penalty for conviction must be increased from three to seven years — but that is logical, says the report, because that would match the penalties for other offences against the State. Being a colonial legacy does not condemn it; the civil services are colonial too. Sedition in colonial times, though, represented people’s revolt against foreign rule, which is why many national leaders were charged with it. It assumes oppression; does the Law Commission consider that ‘legal’ in a democracy? It has also advised increasing the sweep of the law by adding a phrase that makes just the ‘tendency’ to incite violence or cause public disorder seditious. Proof or imminent threat would be unnecessary. By appending this to the earlier definition of sedition as words or signs and so on to bring or try to bring the government into hatred or excite disaffection, the Law Commission recommendations make it possible for any form of divergence from the government’s views to be regarded as sedition. In a unique twist, the argument says that if the law were absent, everyone would be tried under the far more stringent anti-terror laws. Being all about the rightness of laws, politics or general elections are far outside the commission’s interests of course.