One would think a 156-year-old law imposed by the British to suppress Indian nationalism would have long ago been dumped into the trash bin. Instead, this law not only squirmed its way into the Indian Penal Code, it's also been wilfully misused by anyone in power to throttle freedom of expression, a constitutional right given to every Indian.
Here are 10 cases where people were arrested for sedition.
1. Kanhaiya Kumar
Who: President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union
When: February 12
Why: Allegedly raising anti-national slogans
While Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi claimed they had enough evidence against Kumar, an official from the Home Ministry had said that they have requested television channels for the raw footage of the events on February 9, according to a report in The Hindu. This is because the initial footage seems to be doctored, and ABP News, which claims to have been present during the event, has released an unedited video.
2. Aseem Trivedi
When: September 2012
Why: Mocking the Indian Constitution and the National Emblem
Trivedi, who had drawn the emblem with four foxes instead of lions and inscribed 'Brashtamev Jayate' in place of 'Satyamev Jayate', did not apply for bail. But the case was dropped a month after being registered because of public protests and furore on social media.
3. Binayak Sen
Who: Pediatrician, public health specialist and activist
When: December 2010
Why: On charges of being a Maoist sympathiser and possessing Maoist literature
He was accused of sedition by the Chattisgarh Police because he was critical of its counterinsurgency policies against the Maoists. The Supreme Court granted bail to him on April 15, 2011, since there was no proof of sedition could be produced against him. The apex court added: “We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathiser. That does not make him guilty of sedition.”
Who: Tamil folk singer
When: October 2015
Why: Songs criticising J Jayalalithaa-led Tamil Nadu government
Kovan was arrested in Trichy for penning a song on how schools are shut in Tamil Nadu, while liquor shops are being opened everywhere. The video of the song, which was uploaded on YouTube, showed a caricature of CM Jayalalithaa serving liquor. Kovan was later released on bail.
5. Hardik Patel
Who: Patel quota agitation leader
When: October 2015
Why: For allegedly inciting a friend to kill policemen
A chargesheet against Patel accuses him of sedition, conspiring to wage war against the state, and criminal conspiracy over rioting that took place in wake of a rally on August 25 last year. The rally was held to demand OBC status for the Patidar community.
The Gujarat police also allege that he incited a friend, Vipul Desai, on October 3 to kill 2-3 policemen instead of committing suicide.
6. Arundhati Roy
Who: Author and activist
When: November 2010
Why: Speaking at a seminar on Kashmir titled “Azaadi: The Only Way”
She is alleged to have made "anti-India" speeches during the seminar held on October 21, 2010. Reacting to a court order, Roy said that perhaps they should "posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru" and cited 14 instances where he had talked about how "the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people".
7. Sixty-seven Kashmiri students
Who: Students from Kashmir at Swami Vivekananda Subharti University in Meerut
When: March 2014
Why: For cheering Pakistan over India in the Asia Cup
The arrest of the students created a furore in political and legal circles, leading to then J&K CM Omar Abdullah appealing to his UP counterpart Akhilesh Yadav to take action. While sedition charges were dropped, the charges of promoting enmity between different groups and mischief under the Indian Penal Code were filed against the students.
8. Balwant Singh
Who: Pro-Khalistan leader
When: November 1984
Why: Raising anti-India slogans in Chandigarh
Singh, along with an accomplice, was accused of saying "Khalistan zindabad", "Raj karega Khalsa", and "Hinduan nun Punjab chon kadh ke chhadange, hun mauka aya hai raj kayam karan da (We will drive Hindus out of Punjab; now is the chance to establish our rule)", after Indira Gandhi's assassination on October 31, 1984.
However, the Supreme Court dismissed the case stating: "The casual raising of the slogans, once or twice by two individuals alone cannot be said to be aimed at exciting or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the Government."
9. Bharat Desai
Who: Resident Editor of The Times Of India Editor in Ahmedabad
When: June 2008
Why: For writing articles questioning links between the city's police and the underworld
The newspaper had published articles questioning the appointment of OP Mathur as Ahmedabad's Police Commissioner and alleged he was linked to an underworld don. Mathur, in turn, filed a case of "sedition and treason" against Desai and crime reporter Prashant Dayal. However, the case was dismissed because there were no grounds to file it.
Two years earlier, in August 2006, Manoj Shinde, editor of Surat Saamna, was accused of sedition for using “abusive words” for then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi while criticising him for his handling of the Surat floods.
10. Eleven Tamilian protestors
Who: Anti-KNPP protestors
Arrested when: March 2012
Why: Protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant
Eleven top-rung leaders spearheading the agitation were arrested on sedition. They were protesting against the setting of the nuclear plant as they believe it would pose an environmental hazard. In fact, between September and December 2011, over 6,000 people were charged by the Tamil Nadu government under Section 121 (waging war against the government) and Section 124A (sedition) at Kudankulam.
(Feature image source: Reuters)