Friday, July 1, 2022

Govt may amend sedition law instead of revoking it: TMC MP Mahua Moitra

Senior TMC leader Mahua Moitra, who has been at the forefront in fighting against the sedition law, claimed the BJP-led Centre is “not keen on revoking the draconian legislation” and may instead amend it.
The TMC MP’s comment came a day after the Supreme Court in a landmark order on Wednesday put on hold the controversial sedition law till the Centre completes a promised review of the colonial relic and also asked the central and state governments not to register any fresh case invoking the act.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana had directed that ongoing probes, pending trials and all proceedings under the sedition law across the country will also be kept in abeyance.
Those in jail on sedition charges could approach the court for bail, it said.
Moitra, who had been one of the writ petitioners in the case, said, “had the Centre been serious in reconsidering the law, it could have done it in the last eight years”.
The TMC MP is also of the opinion that the “draconian” Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act needs to be scrapped.
“This is a fantastic verdict. I am really happy. This is not my fight or your fight. This is the victory of Indian constitutional democracy. Any civilized society has no place for such a colonial-era sedition law which dates back to 1870 and was meant to throttle the voices of Indians.
“It is not meant for an elected Indian government to muzzle the voices of the country’s citizens today,” she told PTI in a telephonic interview.
Moitra, who was among the petitioners who had challenged the sedition law, said there were reasonable restrictions regarding the usage of the law, which have now “gone for a toss under the present regime”.
“The government is saying that they would put reasonable restrictions, but these were already there. That did not stop them from slapping sedition charges against Munawar Faruqui or arresting Siddique Kappan or others… there are 13,000 such cases in the country,” she said.
The TMC MP said the Centre may be “using the term reconsider because there is a chance to bring in an amendment” instead of revoking the law.
“The government doesn’t like dissent, comedy, free opposition, so obviously it is a great tool as the sedition law allowed authorities to arrest without a warrant,” she said, adding “if they wanted to get rid of the law, they could have used the term revoke. They could have done it in the last eight years”.
Moitra said the only fig leaf that the government has to hide behind (in retaining the law in some form) is the national security.
“Whether it is data protection, the UAPA, or everything that is unconstitutional, the only fig leaf that they have to hide behind is the national security. Tell me what national security is (compromised) if Munnawar Farroqui cracks a joke?
“There is a huge trust deficit between the civil society and the present BJP-led dispensation at the Centre. I do not believe that the government will do it on its own, which is why we have moved the court,” she said.
Moitra also said that the UAPA law needs to be scrapped. “When the Unlawful law Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 was debated in Parliament, I had opposed it. I think this too should go,” she said.

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