No one should cross ‘Lakshman Rekha’, says justice minister after Supreme Court freezes sedition law

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No one should cross the “Lakshman Rekha” and the court should respect the government and the legislature just as the government respects the court, Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Wednesday after the Supreme Court suspended the sedition law, while opposition parties welcomed the order.

Several parties, including Congress, CPI and CPI(M), urged the Supreme Court to strike down the sedition law without waiting for the government to complete its review of the law.

Speaking to reporters after the order, Mr Rijiju said: “We respect each other. The court must respect the government, the legislature. The government should also respect the court. We have a clear boundary demarcation and that Lakshman Rekha should not be crossed by anyone.

The Supreme Court ruling also led to a fight between former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Mr Rijiju, who questioned Congress’ record.

“Telling the truth is patriotism, not treason. To tell the truth is to love the country, not to be a traitor. Listening to the truth is Rajdharma. Crushing the truth is the arrogance of power,” Mr Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.

In response, Mr. Rijiju said those words were meaningless and that the Congress had been “the antithesis of freedom, democracy and respect for institutions”. “This party has always supported the forces of Breaking India and left no room for dividing India,” the Justice Minister tweeted, adding, “During the Anna movement and other anti-corruption movements as well, those who did not toe the UPA line were subjected to intimidation, harassment, bullying and arrests.All under the watchful eye of the UPA!

Responding to the Justice Minister’s ‘Lakshman Rekha’ comment, CPI(M) Secretary General Sitaram Yechury pointed to the constitutional scheme of division of powers which made the executive accountable to the legislature, which in turn was accountable in front of the people.

“Before talking about the Lakshman Rekha, the BJP should also remember its own actions of devaluing Parliament. In doing so, they seek to evade responsibility,” Mr Yechury said, while pointing out that under the Modi government, 326 people were arrested under the sedition law but only six convicted.

“This is a blatant abuse of the law that has taken place under the Modi government. This law should be struck down and removed from the statutes…The Supreme Court should not wait for this government’s review and proceed to the removal of the anachronistic Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, when the hearings resume in July 2022,” the ICC (M) chief added.

CPI Secretary General D. Raja called it a vindication of his long standing position and tweeted: section 124A. The nation and the government are not the same thing. Criticism is what makes democracy healthy. Sedition must go!

Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Mahua Moitra, who was one of the petitioners in the case, tweeted: “Victory! Supreme Court upholds Section 124A – no new cases may be filed, existing cases may seek bail and immediate release”.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Jha said the Center had blurred the line between criticizing the government and the state by filing sedition complaints against government critics. Bahujan Samaj party’s Lok Sabha member Dane Ali said: ‘Hundreds of innocent people are in jail under Section 124A and central and state governments have used the law to target political rivals’ .

“Anyone who tries to raise their voice against the BJP government, the BJP is presenting fake cases to suppress these people. This law has also been misused against me in Uttar Pradesh,” tweeted Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

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