The Commission 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 consultation paper also toyed with the idea of redefining sedition in a country like
"Berating the country or a particular aspect of it, cannot and should not be treated as sedition. 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 consultation paper said.
For merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the government of the day, a person should not be charged under the section, the paper said.
"Sedition charges can only be invoked where the intention behind any act is to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means," it observed.
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.
It added that while it was essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech.
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.
The Commission also hoped that a healthy debate takes place in the country among the legal luminaries, lawmakers, government and non-government agencies, academia, students and the general public on the topic, so that a public friendly amendment could be brought about....