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Law minister Kiren Rijiju, Rahul Gandhi spar over SC order on sedition law

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New Delhi, May 11: Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Wednesday dubbed Congress as the "antithesis" of freedom, democracy and respect for institutions while hitting back at Rahul Gandhi for his remark that telling the truth is patriotism, not treason after the Supreme Court put on hold the application of sedition law.

File photo of Kiren Rijiju

The Congress party and its ecosystem have no right to give sermons to others, the minister said, while referring to several decisions of the previous Congress governments including the imposition of Emergency, and asked if the opposition party had checked its past actions.

In a Twitter post after the top court's directions on Section 124A of the IPC, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said "telling the truth is patriotism, not treason" and listening to the truth is 'Rajdharma', while crushing the truth is "arrogance".

Do not fear, he urged the people while the Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said speaking truth to power is "true nationalism and the true test" of how committed one is to the country and the people.

Rijiju too took to Twitter to counter Rahul Gandhi, saying these were "empty words" by the Congress leader.

"If there is one party that is the antithesis of freedom, democracy and respect for institutions, it is the Indian National Congress. This party has always stood with Breaking India forces and left no opportunity to divide India," he said.

In a series of tweets, the BJP leader targeted former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi over the issue of sedition law and freedom of expression.

"It was the Indira Gandhi government which made Section 124A a cognisable offence for the first time in India's history. This happened in the new Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which came into force in 1974. Has Congress checked its own past actions?" the minister wondered.

"When it comes to trampling over free speech, Mrs Indira Gandhi Ji is a Gold Medal Winner! We all know about the Emergency but do you also know she imposed Article 356 over 50 times! She came up with the idea of a 'Committed Judiciary' to weaken the Judiciary, our 3rd pillar," he claimed.

The law minister also said the First Amendment was brought in by first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. "It was SP Mookerjee and the Jana Sangh which stood in opposition to this measure aimed at curtailing freedom of expression. Nehru ji also dismissed the democratically elected Government in Kerala," he said.

Rijiju asserted that the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will always protect the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India. "It will also protect the values enshrined in our Constitution. Congress party and its eco-system of the Tukde Tukde gang have no right to give sermons to others," he shot back.

Rijiju alleged that during the Anna movement and other anti-corruption campaigns, those not toeing the UPA line were subjected to "bullying, harassment, intimidation and arrests".

"All this under the watchful eyes of the UPA," he said taking a jibe at the Congress-led alliance.

The union minister claimed that the then UPA government had the "worst track record" of filing sedition cases.

"In 2012, thousands of people had sedition cases filed against them under the watchful eyes of 'Recounting Minister' P Chidambaram," he claimed. Chidambaram had been the union home minister.

Putting on hold the sedition law, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the registration of FIRs, ongoing probes and coercive measures on the matter across the country until an "appropriate forum" of the government re-examines the colonial-era penal law.

In its significant order on the law that has been under intense public scrutiny, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said there was a need to balance the interest of civil liberties and the interests of citizens with that of the state.

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