28% annual rise in Sedition cases between 2014 to 2020: Article 14 database

800+ Sedition cases have been filed against 13,000 Indians from 2010-2021.

Article 14 has launched a sedition database called A Decade of Darkness, the first empirical and investigative research into the use of the law on Sedition.

This database documents cases of people charged with sedition-related crimes from 2010 to 2021. It also documents the role of the State and the courts in dealing with Sedition cases.

13,000 cases, sourced through 1,300 legal documents, 800 media reports, 125 FIRs and over 70 interviews with people accused of sedition have been showcased as part of the database.

The people, the State and the courts

The people: This section showcases a state-wise pictorial representation of 800+ Sedition cases filed against 13,000 Indians from 2010-2021. The numbers range from no cases in Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland, to as high as 171 cases in Bihar, 143 in Tamil Nadu and 127 in Uttar Pradesh.

The State: The study finds that the use of sedition laws has risen over the last decade, and has most recently been invoked against public protests, dissent, social-media posts, criticism of the government and even over cricket results.

This section categorises sedition patterns across contexts such as farm protests and Covid-19. In total, it documents 9 contexts within which sedition cases have been filed. They are the Modi years, social media, UPA II, farm protests, citizenship, women, journalists, cricket, and covid-19.

  1. 2014-18: There has been an annual rise of 28% in sedition cases for the period between 2014 and 2020, compared to the yearly average between 2010 and 2014, with 559 cases being filed during this period.

  2. Social media: Social media users have been targeted for posting content that was deemed “anti-national” or allegedly supporting Pakistan. 106 such Sedition cases were filed.

  3. UPA II: During the second term of the UPA government (2010 and 2014), there was a spike in sedition cases. This spike was especially attributed to the protests in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. In total, 286 cases were filed in this period.

  4. Farm protests: 8 cases were filed against farmers protesting the now revoked farm laws.

  5. Citizenship: 27 sedition cases were filed against those who protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the National Register for Citizens.

  6. Women: Since 2014, there is an increase of nearly 190% in the number of women charged with Sedition-related crimes. In total, 94 cases were filed against women.

  7. Journalists: In total, 21 Sedition cases were filed against journalists. Since 2018, they have been arrested for reportage on the farm laws, COVID-19, the Hathras gang rape, citizenship and for being critical of the government.

  8. Cricket: 12 Sedition cases were filed against people for allegedly “celebrating” Pakistan’s wins against India in the 2014 Asia Cup, 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

  9. COVID-19: 12 Sedition cases were filed during the pandemic against those who raised concerns over lack of ventilators, food distribution or the handling of the issue of migrant labourers.

The courts: This section documents how courts across the country have dealt with people charged with Sedition. In terms of bail, accused have spent too many days in jail before a trial court or a High Court granted bail. Accused had to wait for an average of 50 days to get bail from a trial court, and upto 200 days for bail from a High Court.

Further, the database notes:

“In 1,386 verdicts across three courts, trial courts tended to reject bail applications more than they allowed them. At the high court, for every bail application rejected, seven were granted.”

In the case of Uttar Pradesh, 60% of bail applications at trial courts were rejected in cases related to protest, criticism, religious hate, or insults to national symbols. It was only on appeal that most bail applications were granted, with 99% of them being granted in High Courts.

In the context of reasons for rejection or grant of bail applications, it notes:

“A 32-year-old Muslim baker booked for uploading a Facebook profile photo was granted bail after three months in prison. That the accused has spent a “long time in custody” was the main reason why court granted bail.”

When it comes to trial, the time spent by accused persons from the stage of the FIR to being acquitted ranged between 209 and 3,520 days.

The database can be viewed at https://sedition.article-14.com/#the-stories.

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