Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 21
Alleging its rampant misuse, an NGO has demanded repeal of the law on sedition that has often been invoked against opposition political leaders, journalists, activists and student leaders.
“As per the NCRB, a total of 326 sedition cases were registered across the country from 2014 to 2019 and 559 persons were arrested. Among the states, the highest number of sedition cases (54) was registered in Assam, followed by Jharkhand (40), Haryana (35), Karnataka (30), Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala (25 each), and Uttar Pradesh (17),” Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG), an NGO ,stated.
RRAG Director Suhas Chakma said there has been a 98 per cent increase in sedition cases from 2014 (47 cases) to 2019 (98 cases).
Recently, the Supreme Court had sought to know from the Centre if the law on sedition was still needed after almost 75 years of independence. A Bench led by CJI NV Ramana had pointed out that sedition law was used by British against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak and was now being misused with no accountability from the government.
“The government has repealed a number of laws…I don’t know why you aren’t looking into it,” the CJI had wondered.
“The data collated by the NCRB does not appear to reflect the actual number of sedition cases filed in the country. For example, the NCRB data stated that only 19 sedition cases were filed in Jharkhand during 2017 (1 case) and 2018 (18 cases) while the Jharkhand Police had filed 30 FIRs/cases against about 200 named accused and more than 10,000 unnamed people involved in the Pathalgadi movement of 2017-18.” Chakma said.
In its report “Sedition: India’s Silencer Gun” the NGO pointed out that as per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), the BJP-ruled states dished out more sedition cases under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) since it started collecting data in 2014.
“Complaints of sedition are mostly filed by private individuals who claim as nationalists or members or affiliates of mostly the ruling parties whether at the Centre or state level, against their real or perceived opponents, whether political or ideological and dissenters in a democracy. The most serious crime against a state i.e. to overthrow the government or threaten its sovereignty and territorial integrity, has been reduced to a matter of perception of a person’s own view on nationalism, a compliant police, and in some cases, a complicit judicial officer,” Chakma said.
“The vindictiveness of the state, the grudges of the offended nationalists, or motivated actions of political activists, who invoke sedition clauses at the drop of a hat to silence the opponents and critics, cannot be regulated. The time has come for India to repeal Section 124A of the IPC relating to sedition,” he added.
Section 124A of the IPC has put in jeopardy the right to freedom of opinion and expression itself because of vagueness of the terms like “hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government”, and the inability of the state to restrict its application only in cases that “incite people to violence against the Government established by law or create public disorder” as enunciated by the Supreme Court in its Kedar Nath Singh judgment in 1962, Chakma said.