By Abu Zafar 12/21/12


New Delhi – An international organization, which works to promote press freedom and to defend rights of journalists worldwide, has approached the Indian authorities including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand the repeal of Indian sedition law.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde, Minister of Law and Justice Ashwani Kumar and Indian Ambassador to United States Nirupama Rao, the executive director of The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) – Joel Simon, expressed deep concern over the continuing abuse of Indian sedition law.

“CPJ calls on your government to begin taking action toward repealing the law, section 124A in the Indian penal code, which Indian lawmakers have deemed punitive and outdated,” Simon said in his letter which was sent on Tuesday.

CPJ, which compiles the annual data of journalists who suffer atrocities by the state or individuals worldwide, accused the Indian authorities of using the sedition law to threaten journalists and human rights activists.

Mentioning the case of jailed journalists cum activists Sudhir Dhawale of Mumbai and Lingaram Kodopi of Chhattisgarh, Simon said “India again appeared on CPJ’s global census of imprisoned journalists this year; of the three journalists jailed in the country, two have been charged under the sedition law”.

“There have been virtually no developments in either of the cases,” he further said.

“A landmark Supreme Court decision in 1962 held that the Indian government could not invoke a charge of sedition unless the accused incited violence through speech or action,” the letter further reads.

Referring to the case of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, the letter stated that after dropping charges of sedition from Trivedi, a group of ministers had agreed for an internal discussion in September to bring amendments in the sedition law. The then Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, in a letter to the group’s chairman, had also acknowledged that the law should be revised.

CPJ claimed that ‘a consensus has begun to emerge’ among lawmakers in India about the certain need for the revision of sedition law.

The CPJ further said that repealing the law would represent a commitment to freedom of press and protecting human rights which is associated with India’s democratic character.

The democratic countries across the globe have already repealed their sedition laws, it said.

“Action is urgently needed in India. We ask that your government begin formulating a timeline to repeal the sedition law, and call on you to ensure that the sedition charges are dropped in the cases of Dhawale and Kodopi,” CJP concluded.