Between 2015-2019, only 5 convictions have taken place across the country in sedition cases.

DDisha Ravi wearing a mask and standing in front of a busFile image of Disha Ravi
news Sedition Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 13:53

Citing the recent and controversial arrest of Bengaluru-based 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, opposition Congress on Tuesday asked the Narendra Modi government on the floor of the Parliament if it will dilute the sedition law.

It may be recalled that Disha was arrested for sedition by Delhi Police on February 13 for sharing a ‘toolkit’ or an online document containing information about the ongoing farmers' agitation and the social media campaign in support of that. Granting her bail on February 23, a Delhi court found that there was no evidence linking Disha with any secessionist idea or call for violence. In fact, the judgment noted: “The offense of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments.”

Speaking on the same on Tuesday, Congress MP Manish Tewari asked given that the convictions are so low would the government bring an amendment which further narrows down the scope of application of sedition?

He said, “The latest manifestation of misuse of this law is the Disha Ravi case. The minister should read the judgment which makes it very obvious that the Delhi Police absolutely and miserably failed to produce any evidence linked to the charge of sedition. Given the law is misused as demonstrated by your figures, will the government further narrow down the scope of the application of Section 124A?”

Hitting back at the Congress, Minister of State of Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said the Congress does not have the right to speak on misuse of laws. “The less Congress speaks of misuse, the better it is. You jailed JP Narayan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and others by misusing MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act). Congress has no right to speak on democracy,” he retorted.

He added, “You jailed so many people in 1980 under TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act). You jailed journalists, students, politicians under MISA.”

Supporting Reddy, his party colleague, Meenakshi Lekhi, MP from New Delhi constituency, went on to defend the Delhi Police saying that the case has not yet reached its conclusion. She added that the matter is still under probe and no allegation of misuse of the sedition law can be established.

Read: 'Still fighting for climate justice': Disha Ravi releases powerful statement

The issue had come up in light of Anumula Revanth Reddy, Congress MP from Telangana, asking for further clarification from the government on a question he asked on the subject of sedition law. He also raised concerns about sedition cases being slapped against anybody like Disha Ravi for questioning government policies and supporting the farmers' agitation against the three contentious laws. He insisted that the government give details of sedition cases filed against activists and journalists in light of the Republic Day protests and asked if there was any mechanism adopted to drop those cases.

Citing the low conviction rate, he argued that politically motivated cases have been registered since 2014 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming to power. He asked if the government is planning to bring in a law so that charges like these can be dropped if a chargesheet is not filed in these cases within a span of one year.

In reply, MoS Reddy said that it was only after they came to power that they are giving separate records of sedition, because earlier all crimes were clubbed under the Indian Penal Code. “You (Congress) people used to hide the sedition cases within IPC cases only,” he said.

Listing out the number of cases, he stated that even states file these cases given that police matters come under state governments.

In 2014- out of 47 cases, only 1 conviction

2015- 30 cases, 0 convictions

2016- 35 cases, 1 conviction

2017- 51 cases, 1 conviction

2018- 70 cases, 2 convictions

2019- 93 cases, 1 conviction

The MoS went on to state that Delhi Police, which comes under the Union government, has not filed any high number of seditions.

The Congress MP had initially asked a starred question about details of cases registered for sedition in the country in the last 10 years and the rate of conviction. He also asked if the government had taken any measures for speedy trial of these cases and if the government planned to scrap any provisions of sedition. The MoS in reply said that ‘Public Order’ and ‘Police’ are state subjects as per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and laid out data from the National Crime Records Bureau (which is updated till 2019). He further said that amendment of criminal law is a “continuous process”.

Read: No sedition or call to violence in toolkit: Delhi court judgment on Disha Ravi bail

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