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Cong promises comprehensive review of all laws, rules, regulations

twitter-logoPTI | April 2, 2019 | Updated 20:43 IST

New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) The Congress on Tuesday promised to scrap the sedition law if voted to power and said it will initiate a comprehensive review of all laws, rules and regulations and bring them in accordance with constitutional values and democracy. The Congress in its manifesto for Lok Sabha elections has also promised the passage of a new law in the first session of 17th Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to prevent and punish hate crimes like lynching, making defamation a civil offence, establishing the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to select judges, pass a new law to prevent torture, amend AFSPA to remove certain immunities and change law that allows detention without trial. The party in its document also promised to set up a National Election Fund for contributions by people and allocation of funds during elections to recognised political parties in accordance with criteria laid down by law. Noting that holding free and fair elections is the greatest challenge, it also proposes to count at least 50 per cent of EVMs that will be matched against the physical count of voting slips in corresponding VVPATs and scrap the electoral bond scheme that favours the ruling party. "We will pass a new law in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha to prevent and punish hate crimes such as mob-engineered stripping, burning and lynching. The law will contain provisions to compensate the victims and to hold accountable the police and district administration for proven negligence," the party said. Alleging that the law on sedition has been misused, the party said it has become redundant due to subsequent laws that have been brought in and thus needs to be done away with. The party said freedom is the hallmark of an open democracy and laws should be there that strengthen freedom and should be just and reasonable that reflect our constitutional values. "Congress believes that we are an over-legislated and over-regulated country. Laws, rules and regulations have proliferated and restricted freedoms. Consequently, there are severe restrictions on innovation, enterprise and experimentation, and economic growth has suffered. "Congress will initiate a total and comprehensive review of all laws, rules and regulations," the manifesto said. The party said it promises to decriminalise laws that are essentially directed against civil violations and can be subjected to civil penalties, omit Section 499 of IPC and make 'defamation' a civil offence, omit Section 124A of IPC that defines the offence of 'sedition', saying it has been misused and has become redundant. The party proposed to amend the laws that allow for detention without trial in order to bring them in accord with the spirit, and not just the letter, of the Constitution as well as international human rights conventions. It said it will also bring a law -- Prevention of Torture Act, to prohibit the use of third-degree methods during custody or interrogation and punish cases of torture, brutality or other police excesses. The party proposed to amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, to help strike a balance between the powers of security forces and human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture. It sought to amend laws to declare that every investigation agency that has the power to search, seize, attach, summon, interrogate and arrest will be subject to the restrictions imposed on the police by the Constitution, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act. It said it will amend the Code of Criminal Procedure and related laws to affirm the principle that 'bail is the rule and jail is the exception' and promised to release immediately all remand and under trial prisoners facing charges punishable with imprisonment of three years or less who have spent three months in prison. It also sought to institute comprehensive prison reforms recognising the principle that prisoners enjoy human and legal rights and that prisons are institutions of correction. It promised that the independence and integrity of the judiciary will be maintained and protected at all costs, even as it proposed to introduce a bill to amend the Constitution to make the Supreme Court a constitutional court that will hear and decide cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution and other cases of legal significance or national importance. Besides establishing the NJC that will be responsible for selection of judges for high courts and the Supreme Court, the party said it will form an independent judicial complaints commission to investigate complaints of misconduct against judges and recommend suitable action to Parliament. Later addressing reporters, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the party sets ambitious goals which are achievable by a wise and a competent government. On sedition law, the former finance minister said, "It is a colonial era law. Not one but many people have said that sedition law has become outdated. Anything that comes under sedition has no safeguards at all. The sedition law has become redundant because of subsequent laws." On AFSPA removal, he said, "We will only amend laws on issues concerning enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture." Another party leader Jairam Ramesh said Congress will "only implement what the Supreme Court has said. The amendment is only limited to SC verdict and it will be applicable only to the extent what SC has said in its judgement". PTI SKC ZMN

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