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Observing that the central government agrees with the prima facie opinion of the court that the rigours of the sedition law (under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code) are not in accordance with the current social milieu, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 11 May, urged the central and state governments to refrain from registering any FIR invoking Section 124A.
As per data from the Home Ministry, 326 cases were lodged under the charge of sedition between 2014 and 2019, out of which the highest number of cases (54) were registered in Assam.
Also, of the total cases, chargesheets were filed in 141 cases, while only six persons were found guilty during this period.
The Supreme Court's stay on sedition is important in light of the fact that the law has been used lightly in the last few years.
Here are some of the cases over the last few years where people were booked under the colonial-era law.
Case Against Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar for Alleged Sloganeering in JNU
In 2016, 10 people, including the then Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and student leader Umar Khalid were booked for sedition for allegedly raising "anti-India" slogans on the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was convicted and hanged for his role in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.
They were arrested and sent to the Tihar Jail.
Charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Khalid is currently in jail for his alleged involvement in the 2020 Delhi Riots case.
Disha Ravi Toolkit Case
Bengaluru-based climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested on 14 February, 2021, under sedition charges for sharing a toolkit during the farmers' agitation. She was also accused of criminal conspiracy with regard to the case.
With certain pro-government Twitter handles and even Union Ministers alleging that the toolkit was proof of a global conspiracy against India, the Delhi Police arrested Ravi from Bengaluru on charges of "sharing and spreading" the toolkit.
Ravi was finally granted bail on 23 February 2021, 10 days after her arrest.
Charged for Celebrating Pakistan's Victory
Three students from Kashmir were arrested on 27 October 2021 under the charge of sedition in Uttar Pradesh's Agra for allegedly celebrating Pakistan's victory against India during the 2021 T20 Cricket World Cup.
The students – Altaf Shaikh, Shaukat Ahmed Ghani, and Arshid Yusuf – were put in prison for raising slogans and writing posts on social media in favour of Pakistan after the team achieved a 10-wicket victory over India.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had himself justified the sedition charges against them.
The trio were finally granted bail on 31 March this year.
Case Against Journalist Vinod Dua for Criticising Govt
Late journalist Vinod Dua was booked under sedition by the Himachal Police in 2020 for criticising the government's implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dua was accused of having made certain "objectionable statements" on his YouTube programme, the 'Vinod Dua Show'. The FIR against him was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ajay Shyam.
On 6 June 2021, the Supreme Court finally quashed the sedition case against him.
Case Against Sharjeel Imam for Alleged Inflammatory Speech
Sharjeel Imam was arrested on the charge of sedition for allegedly giving inflammatory speeches against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.
He has been in judicial custody since 28 January 2020.
The JNU PhD scholar also faces accusations of plotting riots in Delhi in 2020, during which 50 people were killed and several were left injured, and is facing charges under UAPA.
Filmmaker Ayesha Sultana faced was charged under Section 124A of IPC for criticising Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel.
She was booked in June 2021 by the Lakshadweep Police for allegedly calling Patel a "bioweapon".
Sultana got interim anticipatory bail from the Kerala High Court on 25 June last year.
In January 2021, Sharjeel Usmani, a student leader of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), was arrested by the UP Police for giving an allegedly controversial speech during a meeting of the Elgar Parishad in Pune.
He was booked for promoting enmity on grounds of religion in an FIR registered in Pune. A few days later, he was booked for sedition in an FIR registered in Lucknow.
Hardik Patel: Patidar Agitation
Hardik Patel was arrested in 2015 under the charge of sedition in connection with the violence during a Patidar reservation rally in Gujarat.
Patel had led the movement for reservation for the Patidar/Patel community.
The Patidar leader was granted bail in July 2016, and the court, in November 2018, framed charges against him and other accused in the case.
Navneet, Ravi Rana: Hanuman Chalisa Row
The Maharashtra Police recently charged Independent MP Navneet Rana and her husband MLA Ravi Rana under sedition for her announcement of reading Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, the private residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The couple was granted bail on 4 May in connection with the case of and released from prison on 5 May.
While granting bail to Rana and her husband Ravi Rana, the court said their statements were "defective", but not sufficient to impose sedition.
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