The Supreme Court last week observed that Section 124 (A) of the IPC — offence of sedition — has been enormously misused and asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to “silence” people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress the freedom movement.
According to the Union Home Ministry data, a total of 326 cases were registered under the sedition law between 2014 and 2019, with the highest 54 cases in Assam.
Out of these cases, charge sheets were filed in 141 cases while just six people were convicted for the offence during the six-year period.
The data of 2020 has not been compiled by the home ministry yet, officials said.
In Assam, out of the 54 sedition cases registered, charge sheets were filed in 26 cases and trials were completed in 25 cases.
However, there has not been a single conviction in the state in any of the cases between 2014 and 2019, the data says.
Jharkhand has registered 40 cases under Section 124 (A) of IPC during the six years in which charge sheets were filed in 29 cases and trials were completed in 16 cases in which just one person has been convicted.
In Haryana, 31 cases were registered under the sedition law in which charge sheets were filed in 19 cases and trials were completed in six cases in which just one person has been convicted.
Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala have registered 25 cases each.
While Bihar and Kerala could not file a charge sheet in any of the cases, Jammu and Kashmir filed a charge sheet in three cases. However, no one was convicted in any of the three states between 2014 and 2019.
As many as 22 sedition cases were filed in Karnataka in which charge sheets were filed in 17 cases, but the trial could be completed in just one case. However, no one was convicted in any case in the period.
A total of 17 sedition cases were filed in Uttar Pradesh and eight in West Bengal between 2014 and 2019.
While charge sheets were filed in eight cases in UP and five cases in West Bengal, no one was convicted in the two states.
In Delhi, four sedition cases were registered between 2014 and 2019 but no charge sheet has been filed in any case.
No sedition case was filed in states and UTs of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli in the six years
One each sedition case was filed in three states — Maharashtra (in 2015), Punjab (2015) and Uttarakhand (2017).
According to the home ministry data, 2019 saw the highest number of 93 sedition cases registered in the country, followed by 70 in 2018, 51 in 2017, 47 in 2014, 35 in 2016 and 30 in 2015.
While 40 charge sheets were filed in the country in 2019 under the sedition law, 38 were filed in 2018, 27 in 2017, 16 in 2016, 14 in 2014 and six in 2015.
Among the six convicted, two were sentenced in 2018 and one each in 2019, 2017, 2016 and 2014. No one was convicted in 2015.
On July 15, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana agreed to examine the pleas filed by the Editors Guild of India and a former major general challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC.
The court said its main concern was the “misuse of law” leading to the rise in the number of cases.
The non-bailable provision makes any speech or expression that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
“Mr Attorney (General), we want to ask some questions. This is the colonial-era law and the same law was used by the British to suppress the freedom movement. It was used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Gokhale and others.
“Is it still necessary to keep this in statute even after 75 years of independence?” asked the bench which also comprised justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.