National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Data on Sedition Cases

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    2039

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    • Recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Data shows that the most number of sedition cases in the last 8 years came from Assam.

    NCRB Report

    • About: 
      • The NCRB compiles and publishes crime statistics as reported by states and Union Territories, and data on sedition cases (registered under Section 124A of the IPC) has been available since 2014.
    • Categorisation:
      • The data on sedition cases is given under the headline ‘Offences Against State’. 
      • While cases registered under the Section 124A of the IPC have been mentioned under the sub-head ‘Sedition’, 
      • The cases registered under Section 121, 121A, 122 and 123 IPC have been given under the second sub-head ‘Others’
    • Facts:
      • In all, 149 offences against the state were registered in the country during 2021, of which 76 were sedition cases and 73 were under the ‘other’ subhead. 
      • The total number of offences against the state stood at 172 in 2020 and 163 in 2019.

    Key Findings

    • Assam vs all India: 
      • Out of 475 sedition cases registered in the country between 2014 and 2021, Assam accounted for 69 cases — 14.52 per cent
      • This means that around one in six sedition cases registered in the country in the last eight years came from Assam.
    • Year Wise Data: 
      • 76 sedition cases were registered across the country in 2021, a marginal increase from the 73 registered in 2020. 
      • The number of these cases stood at 93 in 2019, 70 in 2018, 51 in 2017, 35 in 2016, 30 in 2015 and 47 in 2014.
    • State-wise analysis:
      • The most number of such cases were reported from Haryana (42 cases), followed by Jharkhand (40), Karnataka (38), Andhra Pradesh (32) and Jammu and Kashmir (29). 
        • These six states accounted for 250 cases — more than half the number of total sedition cases recorded in the country — in the eight-year period.
      • Nine other states and UTs registered sedition cases in double digits in the last eight years — Manipur (28), Uttar Pradesh (27), Bihar (25), Kerala (25), Nagaland (17), Delhi (13), Himachal Pradesh (12), Rajasthan (12) and West Bengal (12).
      • Three states — Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana — reported eight sedition cases each in the 2014-21 period, while Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh registered six cases and Goa four.
      • Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Lakshadweep registered just one sedition case each. 
      • Sikkim and Tripura recorded two sedition cases, and Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat registered three each.
      • No Cases: States and UTs that did not register even one sedition case in that period were Meghalaya, Mizoram, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, and Puducherry.

    Image Courtesy: IE

    Sedition

    • Definition:
      • It defines the offence of ‘sedition’ and is colloquially known as Sedition law.
      • According to Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a person commits the crime of sedition if he/she brings or attempts to bring in hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established according to the law.
    • Incorporation: 
      • The provision was incorporated in its current form in the penal code (IPC) in 1898, nearly four decades after the IPC was introduced and has withstood the test of constitutionality since.
    • Penalty: 
      • It penalises the crime with maximum punishment of life imprisonment with added fine or an additional jail term of three years.
    • Courts’ validations of the law since Independence:
      • Punjab and Allahabad High Courts in 1950s struck down the sedition law as an exception to free speech.
      • Subsequently, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962) gave the law a constitutional validity.
        • But the apex court cautioned the state to move ahead with the law in a just manner and use it only in cases where seditious speech tended to incite ‘public disorder’.
        • However, the phrase ‘public disorder’ is nowhere in the provisions of the law but was used by the Court in the judgment.
      • P. Alavi vs State of Kerala, 1982: The Supreme Court held that sloganeering, criticizing Parliament or Judicial setup does not amount to sedition.
      • Rajat Sharma v. The Union of India Case, 2021: The court ruling said that disagreeing with the views and policies of the government will not attract the offence of sedition. So the provision of Sedition cannot be invoked to quiet the disquiet.

    Arguments in favour of Sedition Law

    • Helps combat anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements like Maoists, etc.
    • Onus is on the judiciary to protect Articles 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution and it will ensure that the law is not misused.
    • The Court, in Kedar Nath Vs State of Bihar (1962), upheld the law to maintain territorial integrity but mandated acts (not just intent) of violence for its application.
    • Protects the elected government from coups giving it stability.
    • The abolition of Section 124A would be ill-advised merely because it has been wrongly invoked in some highly publicized cases.
    • Sovereign countries, including the US & other democracies, have such provisions in their penal code.

    Arguments against Sedition Law

    • Instances of Misuse: 
      • The provisions of the law are sweeping in nature and have been misused by the different governments as a tool to persecute political dissent. 
      • The law is used in an unjustified manner to curb the opponents; members of the oppositions, journalists, social activists etc.
      • Successive reports of the Law Commissions and the judgments of courts have also reported the rampant misuse of the law which put the lives of the accused in peril.
    • Restricts Freedom of Speech: Constraint on the legitimate exercise of Freedom of speech and expression (Article 19) as it is difficult to identify and distinguish genuine expression of speech from seditious speech.
    • Irrational Punishment: The punishment prescribed i.e., life imprisonment with an added fine or an additional jail term of three years is irrational for a just society.
    • Abolished by Other Countries: Several countries across the world including Ireland, Australia, Canada, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda have either diluted or have completely done away with laws on sedition in the recent past. The British, who introduced sedition law, have themselves abolished it in their country. 
    • Critique by Founding Fathers:
      • Mahatma Gandhi called Section 124A “the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
      • Jawaharlal Nehru said that the provision was “obnoxious” and “highly objectionable”, and “the sooner we get rid of it the better”.

    Sedition Laws in Other countries

    • The sedition law became obsolete in the UK in the 1960s and was finally repealed in 2009. 
    • Singapore too like India inherited the Sedition law from Britain but it repealed it stating that a set of new laws can sufficiently address issues that were under the ambit of the sedition law.

    Way Ahead

    • Along with the reform, it is essential to have advocacy measures to educate the different sections of society about the scope of this provision.
    • Repealing or modifying the law on sedition can positively impact the future of dissent and free speech in the country. 
    • The government should walk the talk and should go ahead to arrive at a logical conclusion.

    Source: IE