Inputs for criminal law reforms sought, panel set up: Govt

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New Delhi, Mar 17 (PTI) The government has sought inputs from various quarters for criminal law reforms including sedition and has set up a committee for it, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy also stressed that the government has not lodged false cases against anyone despite remarks made against it during the CAA agitation and the farmers' stir.

Replying to supplementaries during the Question Hour, Reddy said only 96 arrests have been made under the sedition law (Section 124A IPC) in 2019 and two persons have been convicted and 29 acquitted from 2015 to 2019 under the law while various other cases are in different stages.

As per data on sedition law in 2019, 23 arrests have been made in Assam, 16 in Jammu and Kashmir, 18 in Karnataka, 19 in Nagaland and 9 in Uttar Pradesh, four each in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and one each in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Two convictions have taken place in Nagaland and 16 persons have been acquitted in Jharkhand, 12 in Assam and one in Uttar Pradesh.

The minister told the House that inputs have been sought from chief ministers and LGs of union territories, besides NGOs and other organisations and the government will consider amendments to the sedition law after getting inputs.

He said the law is not new but an old one and was first amended under the Congress rule in 1948, and then again in 1950, 1951 and 1955.

Asked whether the government will consider amending the sedition law, he said, 'We are going to take a big step. A new Committee on criminal reforms under chairmanship of vice chancellor of national law university has been formed.' He said Home Minister Amit Shah has asked all chief ministers, LGs of union territories, vice chancellors of law universities, NGOs and organisations for inputs.

'After getting the inputs, the government will consider, as it is a continuous process,' he told the House.

Reddy said Government of India did not maintain a separate data on cases under the sedition act and after the Modi government came to power, separate data is being maintaining by the NCRB.

'Under the Congress rule, the data under sedition law were hidden. We are attempting to provide separate data before the country under this act,' he said.

Asked about how many fresh cases have been registered, he said, in a population of 130 crore, people make different remarks about the country and its security and integrity but the cases are within two digits.

On the lower rate of conviction in sedition cases, he said, 'Conviction is not decided by the government, but the courts'.

'The Central government does not give any direction to any state government to arrest anyone. This act is there since the Congress government. As far as conviction is concerned, judgements have not come in some cases.

'In Rajasthan, 9 cases were registered in 2015. It is the state government which arrests, files charge-sheets and presents cases in courts. The central government gives no direction in these cases,' he said.

The minister stressed that the government has never registered any false case against any individual or organisation.

'I want to tell you that on issue of CAA, many remarks have been made during the agitation against the law after its passage in Parliament, we give full liberty. During the current farmers agitation which is for over 100 days, different statements have been given, but government has not intervened,' he said.

'The government of India allows free speech on democracy and freedom of press and freedom of statements and anyone can speak within the norms of the Constitution. We do not create any hindrances,' Reddy emphasised. PTI SKC DV DV