The Congress on Tuesday announced its 2019 election manifesto “Hum Nibhayenge” in the capital and its provisions for women empowerment and gender equality have already become a talking point on social media.
The manifesto proposed to decriminalise laws that are essentially directed against civil violations and can be subjected to civil penalties. The laws include the sedition law and defamation.
“Omit Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and make ‘defamation’ a civil offence. Omit Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (that defines the offence of ‘sedition’) that has been misused and, in any event, has become redundant because of subsequent laws,” the manifesto proposed.
“Sedition is a colonial-era law. Many eminent people have said that sedition must go. Sedition is no safeguard at all. It must go because it has become redundant due to subsequent laws,” Chidambaram said while announcing the manifesto.
Congress, in its election manifesto, promised to repeal the colonial-era sedition law, leave out the IPC section on criminal defamation and “review” the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and Disturbed Areas Act which empower and provide immunity to security forces in areas hit by insurgency and militancy.
NSC & NSA
The Congress also said it “will provide a statutory basis to the National Security Council (NSC) and the office of National Security Adviser (NSA). Their powers and functions will be defined under the law and both authorities, and the agencies under them, will be accountable to Parliament”.
New Congress stand on AFSPA that marks a fundamental shift because the UPA under Manmohan Singh had maintained a studious silence on the recommendations of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee and Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) which had called for the repeal or amendment of the AFSPA.
The Congress manifesto made a specific proposal related to national security — in Jammu & Kashmir, the party said it will “review” both the AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act. “Suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights,” it stated.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram told reporters: “As far as AFSPA is concerned, please read it carefully. We have said we will amend the law… balancing the rights of security forces as well as human rights, and remove immunity in only three cases: enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture. I don’t think anybody in the 21st century can say that enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture must be condoned.”
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