The dynast president of the family-run political party, Rahul Gandhi, had in the poll manifesto launched by him on April 2 promised, amongst several other controversial things, that his party would repeal the colonial-era laws on criminal defamation and sedition if voted to power in the upcoming general elections.
It has accused the government of trying to suppress dissent with the sedition law, used on students and social activists, and said it would scrap the colonial-era sedition law that it said has been “misused and, in any event, become redundant”.
In the manifesto released by the Congress party, it has promised to omit Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and make ‘defamation’ a civil offense. Moreover, it said, “Sedition laws has been misused and, in any event, has become redundant because of subsequent laws.”
Section 500 of the IPC holds a maximum of two years imprisonment for the offence of criminal defamation. The offence of sedition entails a minimum and maximum punishment of three years and life imprisonment respectively, to which fine may be added.
When asked about his views on the Congress party’s promise, Sorabjee said it is “nonsense” and such claim in “impractical”.
However, Sorabjee chose not to comment on the pending defamation case against Rahul Gandhi in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra for allegedly blaming RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
This announcement made by Congress has also drawn a sharp rebuke from the BJP which accused it of trying to “protect Jihadis and Maoists”.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, reacting to the promises, “The Congress does not deserve even a single vote for promises like doing away with sedition law.”
Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah had also hit out at the Congress party over its promise to repeal Section 124A (sedition law) and review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, saying it is bringing a smile to terrorists and separatists while lowering the morale of the armed forces.
Repealing the sedition law will lead to the chanting of slogans like “Bharat tere tukde honge” (India will break into pieces) by anti-national gang instead of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (Hail Mother India) under the Congress rule, he claimed.
He also asked whom the Congress was trying to impress by promising unconditional dialogue with separatists and what is the reason that terrorists, separatists, the Pakistani prime minister, and the Congress have the same kind of language in their manifestos.
PM Modi, in his rally today at Arunachal Pradesh’s Pasighat, has called the Congress manifesto as a ‘Dhakosla Patra’ (document of hypocrisy).