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CM Devendra Fadnavis says sedition charge circular has origins during Congress-NCP rule

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has blamed the previous Congress-NCP government in the state for the Maharashtra Home department’s controversial circular regarding sedition CMcharges.

The circular had recently drawn flak from the Opposition parties. Congress andNCP leaders had lashed out at the Fadnavis government, terming the guidelines as regressive and alleging that these would be used to stifle criticism of the BJP-led government.

“The circular draws from a submission by the state’s Advocate General in the Bombay High Court during the Congress-NCP reign,” Fadnavis told reporters on Saturday.

“They (the Congress and the NCP) have no right to criticise the guidelines,” said the Chief Minister, who heads the Home department.

Distancing his government from the row, Fadnavis said, “One thing that must be understood is that it is not a government decision.”

Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde of NCP had earlier said the move indicated an “Emergency-like” situation, while Congress leader Narayan Rane said his party was seeking legal opinion to proceed against the government’s decision.

Rane said the circular has been issued to prevent the media from doing its duty of taking the government to task on its failures and also to stop Opposition from highlighting inept handling of drought situation in parts of the state.

However, a Home Department official had said the circular clearly mentions that “criticism or expressing dissent through legal means” will not attract sedition charge.

The circular containing guidelines to police by the Maharashtra government with regard to invocation of IPC Section (124-A), says sedition clause can be invoked against “whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation, is critical of politicians, elected representatives belonging to the government.” However, the section will not be invoked against those trying to bring change in government through legal means without hatred and contempt, it said.

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