India: Oppn alleges misuse of sedition law

  • OPPOSITION AND treasury benches engaged in a war of words on the sedition law during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha on 16 Mar 21, with both sides strongly putting their points across.
  • The opposition members also demanded setting up of a turmeric board as they accused the BJP of giving “false promises”. Parties friendly to the BJP as well as a BJP MP also joined the opposition demand.
  • The opposition MPs accused the BJP-led government of misusing the stringent sedition law, which drew a sharp retort from Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy, who asked the Congress members not to give lectures on misuse of laws, and reminded them of Emergency during which many leaders were imprisoned.
  • It started with Congress MP from Telangana, Anumula Revanth Reddy, asking the minister to provide the number of sedition cases registered in the past 10 years, the conviction rate and measures taken for speedy trial.
  • He referred to the arrest of climate activist Disha Ravi in connection with the farmer protest toolkit case and her subsequent bail. He also talked about cases against farmer union leaders after the 26 Jan 21 violence in Delhi.
  • Minister Reddy tabled a written response. He said the central government had nothing to do with the arrests as law and order is a state subject. “There is no direct involvement of the Centre in sedition cases,” he said.
  • When Anumula insisted that he provide the number of arrests in the past two years, the minister said the NCRB data was till 2019.
  • “Giving half information is taking the House towards a wrong direction,” the Congress MP said, adding that after 2014 anyone who criticises the government’s policy is charged with sedition.
  • Hitting back, the minister said the Congress need not lecture on misuse of law as it had used the Maintenance of Internal Security Act against opposition leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan and A B Vajpayee.
  • “The Congress has no right to talk about misuse of laws,” he said amidst applauds from the BJP and protests from the Congress benches.
  • He, however, did not respond to the question whether there is a proposal to drop “false charges” against farmer union leaders protesting against the three farm laws.
  • Outside the House, Reddy told The Indian Express, the government has no such plans for the time being.

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