Out of the total sedition cases registered in last ten years, 405 Indians have had cases of Sedition slapped against them for just speaking against politicians and the governments . Out of which ninety six per cent of the cases were registered only after Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party government came to power.
A legal news website Article 14 has made this information available after tracking all the sedition cases from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2020. The bigger issue is that on the one hand the Supreme Court says that criticism cannot be considered seditious, while on the other the cases being charged as sedition have consistently increased. The analysis of the data by Article 14 reveals that holding or sticking posters, chanting slogans, writings posts on social media and even having interpersonal private conversations can be considered as behaviors deemed “seditious”.
The NDA rule has seen an increase of twenty eight percent in the cases of sedition in comparison to the second term of UPA preceding it. The huge amount of cases filed during CAA-NRC agitations and in the aftermath of the Hathras Rape have been attributed as the reasons behind this. The database reveals that in the first six years of the Modi Government 519 cases of sedition have been registered, while the cases filed from 2010 to May 2014 under the UPA government amount to only 279. Of the 279, thirty nine percent of the cases are on the account of the protests in Tamil Nadu’s Kudankulam against the Nuclear Power Plant and on the account of Maoism in some regions of India. The time of registration for eighteen cases has not been possible to be determined due to lack of sufficient information.
This database also shows that six cases of sedition have been filed in relation to Farmers’ Protests till now, while there were twenty two cases after the Hathras Rape, and twenty five during the CAA-NRC protests. Not just these, there were also twenty seven cases after the Pulwama attack. Twenty-two cases of the twenty-five were filed against the Anti-CAA protestors in the BJP-Ruled states. Twenty six out of twenty seven cases after the Pulwama attack were also filed in the states were the Saffron Party was at power.
The five states Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand have sixty five percent of the sedition cases in the last decade, and majority of these have been under the rule of BJP. The database has revealed that of the 10,938 accused under sedition in the past decade, a sixty five per cent of them have had these cases only after the Modi came to power.
In thirty percent of these cases, Acts such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Damage to Public Property (Prevention) Act, and the ones pertaining to prevention of damage to national honor and interest have also been registered along with the charge of Sedition.
The Law of Sedition has been a favorite tool of the governments to deal with criticism and opposition. Both NDA and UPA, it seems no one likes to be transparent or held accountable. Aseem Trivedi, Arundhati Roy are some examples of voices which have been labelled seditious by the UPA government. Now, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, India Today’s journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, and National Herald’s Senior Consulting Editor Mrinal Pande have had cases of sedition filed against them after the unfortunate violence that broke out on Republic Day. Along with these, National Herald’s editor Zafar Aaga, The Caravan’s founder and editor Paresh Nath and Anant Nath, and Executive Editor Vinod K Jose have also faced cases of sedition for allegedly reporting false news.
According to the website Article 14 there are around 149 cases of sedition against people for speaking ‘inappropriate’ or ‘humiliating’ words against the Prime Minister Modi. These cases total to 144 with regard to the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath too.
This article was first published in Junputh and translated by Ananya Kumar.