Daily News Analysis

National Human Rights Commission:

16th July, 2021 Polity

Context:

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) committee formed to investigate complaints of post-poll violence in West Bengal has recommended that cases of heinous crimes be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

About NHRC

  • It was established in 1993 under a legislation enacted by the Parliament, namely, the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • It is a statutory body.
  • NHRC is a multi-member body, which consists of a Chairman and seven other members. Out of the seven members, three are ex-officio member.
  • President appoints the Chairman and members of NHRC on recommendation of high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister.
  • The Chairperson and the members of the NHRC are appointed for 5 years or until the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.

 

Anti - Defection Law:

Context:

  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat has issued notices to three MPs under the anti-defection law.

 

Anti-Defection Law:

  • It defined three grounds of disqualification of MLAs
    • giving up party membership
    • going against party whip
    • Abstaining from voting.
  • The Tenth Schedule, which is popularly known as the Anti-defection Law, was added to the Constitution through the 52nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1985.
  • An independent candidate joins the party after the election.
  • A nominated member joins a party six months after becoming an MP/MLA.
  • It allowed the formation of a new party or “merger” with other political party if not less than two-thirds of the party’s members commit to it.
  • The 91st Amendment also barred the appointment of defectors as Ministers until their disqualification period is over or they are re-elected.

 

Sedition Law:

  • A Supreme Court benchled by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana has agreed to examine a petition challenging the validity of section 124A (Sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.

About Section 124A:

  • It relates to the offence of sedition or exciting “disaffection” against the government.
  • It was first included in the Indian Penal Code in 1870 – 10 years after it was first enacted – ostensibly in response to the Wahabi movement in the 1860s.
  • The provision covers almost any form of expression: words, “either spoken or written”, signs, as well as “visible representation”.
  • It has at its foundation the belief that people are obligated to feel “affection” towards the government or else be punished.

Punishment for Sedition law:

  • It is non bailable offense.
  • The punishment can go from three years of imprisonment to life term.
  • Passport of the accused has to be surrendered.

Need of the sedition law:

  • It is needed to effectively combat anti-national, secessionist and terrorist
  • 'Government established by law' is the visible symbol of the State. The very existence of the State will be in jeopardy if the Government established by law is subverted. Hence, there is need for sedition law.
  • Sedition law is needed to maintain the public or In a developing country, challenges arise from within and outside the environment, which threatens the democratic polity of country.
  • Indian geographical position has terrorist nations nearby. Without having an effective law like sedition, it will be difficult to deal with their propaganda war.

Disadvantages:

  • Impedes on multiple human rights such as freedom of expression, the freedoms of association and assembly, and the right to a fair trial.
  • Elements of the offence are vague and over-broad, are open to subjective interpretations.
  • The vagueness in its text has also allowed sedition to be misused against political activists, human rights defenders and other individuals exercising or demanding their constitutional rights.
  • It leaves the door open to selective prosecution and interpretation, based on discriminatory policies of government officials and the personal predilections of judges.

Court Verdict:

  • Kedar Nath Singh Vs State of Bihar 1962: Only those speeches, which incite direct violence or threat to public order, can be tried under sedition law. Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of sedition law.
  • Indra Das vs. State of Assam & Arup Bhuyan vs. State of Assam: Advocating revolution or overthrow of government is not sedition. There should be imminent incite to violence for a speech to be sedition.
  • Maneka Gandhi case, 1978: Criticism against the govt policies which doesn’t incite the people are within the purview of freedom of speech.
  • Balwant Singh Case: Mere sloganeering or threat to Indian sovereignty through public speeches does not entitle sedition unless there is clear call for imminent violence. Incitement rather than advocacy is the critical element for sedition law.

Way Forward:

  • Needs to develop a liberal polity, which considers slogans by the youth not sedition. Focus should be on the fulfilling the aspirations of the society than curbing the voice of youth using sedition law.
  • Amendments need to be brought to make sedition law more compartmentalised than vague.
  • Prior approval of government can be made necessary before filing a sedition complaint.
  • The law needs to be amended to ensure that unless there is an imminent call for violence, no charges of sedition are registered.