By LUBHYATHI RANGARAJAN / Article14
New Delhi: Trudging past 149 clauses and armed with a Hindi-to-English dictionary, Clause 150 that intends to replace sedition, stares us in the face at page 48 of the proposed Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, the bill seeking to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860.
On 11 August 2023, one year and three months after the Supreme Court stayed the operation of section 124-A, home minister Amit Shah introduced three bills to overhaul the existing 163-year-old Indian Penal Code (IPC), 50-year-old Code of Criminal Procedure and the 151-year-old Indian Evidence Act, which a Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws (CRCL) was tasked with in May 2020. The minister did this on the last day of Parliament just before it was adjourned, putting to rest any chance of a debate or a discussion on the impact of such monumental changes in the everyday lives of 1.3 billion people.
Shah said that these bills would be referred to a parliamentary standing committee, which now has approximately four months to submit its recommendations before the winter session in Parliament in November-December 2023, at which point it is highly likely that these bills will become laws. With an eye on the general elections in 2024, the home minister hopes to appeal to an audience that will applaud the optics of replacing the old colonial past with the new.
Except, has anything changed from the British Raj to now?
The answer, certainly in the proposed Clause 150, is an unambiguous no. Indeed, the ambiguity, legislative intent and punishment are starker and stronger than the old law, which itself, as Article 14’s sedition database—13,000 people charged with sedition over 11 years—clearly revealed, was widely misused in disregard of Supreme Court judgements against all manner of dissenters, journalists, minorities, political opponents and ordinary citizens.
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