Protests, Cricket Matches, COVID-19: How Sedition Law Has Been Used Since 2010
Bihar tops the list of states with the maximum number of sedition cases filed since 2010.
Over 13,000 Indians have been charged since 2010 under the controversial sedition law, which was put in abeyance on Wednesday, 11 May, in a landmark decision by the Supreme Court.
The apex court on Wednesday observed that the rigours of the sedition law date back to the colonial era and are not concordant with the present social milieu, directing the state and central governments to refrain from registering any First Information Reports (FIRs) invoking Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
Since 2010, Indians have spent nearly 3 million hours in prison on charges of sedition. The charges have varied from making alleged inflammatory speeches, holding protests, to raising 'anti-national' slogans during India-Pakistan cricket matches.
Here's a look at how the sedition law has been employed in the past few years.
867 Sedition Cases Since 2010
A total of 867 sedition cases have been filed against 13,306 Indians since 2010.
The highest number of sedition cases for a single year since 2010 can be seen in 2011, when over 3,000 people were accused in 109 cases under the law during vehement protests by locals and fishermen over the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. A total of 130 sedition cases were registered that year.
A similar escalation in the number of sedition cases filed can be observed for 2019 and 2020, the years of the widespread anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) demonstrations.
Bihar Tops List of States With Maximum Sedition Cases
In the state-wise ranking of sedition cases filed since 2010, Bihar ranks first, followed by Tamil Nadu in the second place, and Uttar Pradesh in the third position.
Tamil Nadu had registered 76 percent of its cases in connection to the Kudankulam nuclear plant agitation.
A large number of sedition cases in Bihar till 2014 related to Maoism and counterfeit currency. In the years since 2014, some of the more common causes for sedition cases were for protesting against the CAA, speaking up against intolerance, and the alleged raising of pro-Pakistan slogans.
In UP, 26 cases pertain to criticism of the government or politicians, of which 23 relate to censure of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Twelve cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic, 27 to anti-CAA protests, and 20 were in connection with the 2020 Hathras gang rape case.
In Jharkhand, nearly half of the 64 cases were registered in 2018, when the state witnessed the Pathalgadi movement organised by Adivasi communities in the state.
106 Sedition Cases for Criticising Governments
Since 2010, as many as 106 sedition cases have been filed over the charge of criticising governments or elected representatives.
A total of 149 individuals were accused of making “critical” and/or “derogatory” remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi until 2021, and 144 against Uttar Pradesh CM Adityanath. Three cases relating to disaffection have been filed under the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi.
Twenty-six of the 106 cases have been registered in Uttar Pradesh – 23 after the coming of the Yogi Adityanath government in 2017. Seven such cases have been registered in Jammu and Kashmir, six in Karnataka, four in Delhi, and two in Maharashtra.
Over 3,800 Accused of Sedition Over Anti-CAA Protests, 104 Over India-Pakistan Cricket Matches
Eighteen individuals have been accused of sedition in cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic, 133 during the farm laws protests, 104 in relation with India-Pakistan cricket matches, and a whopping 3,862 for protesting against the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has emerged as the single biggest cause for sedition cases filed since 2010.
Protests over the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, the Pathalgadi movement, local and civic protests, and criticism of the government and elected representatives are the other top causes for sedition cases being filed in this period.
Sedition charges have been used to suppress dissent and curb criticism of the prevailing regime over the decades, even as the Supreme Court in its 1962 Kedar Nath case verdict had held that the provision under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code was only to be employed against incitement of violence.
Among those charged with sedition in recent years are Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, journalists Vinod Dua and Rajdeep Sardesai, climate activist Disha Ravi, author Arundhati Roy, student leaders Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar, and thousands of protesting farmers, Adivasis, and social media users.
(Data used with permission from Article 14.)
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