crime statistics

Sedition in India: Only two of 112 cases registered between 2014 and 2016 resulted in convictions

‘The primary reason for the abysmally low conviction rate for sedition cases is that the law is misapplied,’ said senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.

The Indian police registered 112 cases of sedition across the country between 2014 and 2016, but only two have led to convictions, according to a report released by the National Crime Records Bureau on Thursday and a government statement in Parliament last year.

The National Crime Records Bureau’s annual Crime in India report, the country’s only official record of crimes, showed that 35 cases of sedition were registered in 2016. Haryana topped the list with 12 cases, most of them were linked to the agitation by Jats in that state in February 2016 for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs.

Delhi accounted for two cases. The first relates to the February 9, 2016, incident in Jawaharlal Nehru University, which led to the arrest of student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and two others in connection with an event commemorating the death anniversary of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The second case pertained to a meeting at the Press Club of India in Delhi on the following day, February 10, at which anti-Indian slogans were allegedly chanted. The event’s convenor, Delhi University professor SAR Gilani, was charged with sedition.

Thirty cases of sedition were reported in 2015 and 47 the previous year. In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau, for the first time began to divide the chapter on offences against the state into specific categories, including sedition.

Act of harassment

While the Bureau report for 2014 does not mention how many sedition cases were chargesheeted that year in preparation for being placed before the courts, as many as six cases reached the chargesheet stage in 2015, and 16 did in 2016. A chargesheet refers to a document of accusations prepared by the police, after a First Information Report about an alleged offence has been registered.

Even if it is assumed that all the 22 cases of sedition chargesheeted by the police in 2015 and 2016 were registered in those two years itself, the rate of disposal of such cases by the police would be very low. At best, it would roughly mean that one out of three sedition cases registered in that period were chargesheeted by the police in the same period.

This works to the disadvantage of the defendant, said senior lawyers. The longer a case takes to reach court, the greater the scope for the authorities to harass the defendant, they said.

“The primary reason for the abysmally low conviction rate for sedition cases is that the law is misapplied,” said senior advocate Sanjay Hegde. “While the provision of sedition can only be applied under extraordinary circumstances, accompanied by sanctions from relevant authorities, practically it has become a tool of harassment.”

In most cases, the idea of the authorities is to book and arrest the person without thinking of the course of action, he said. He added that ultimately these cases do not stand in a court of law.

In 2016, six sedition cases were dropped by the police for the lack of evidence and two were termed as false cases in final reports, the Bureau report said.

Cases crumble in court

The trials in four sedition cases were completed in 2015, with all of them leading to acquittals. In the three sedition cases for which trials were completed in 2016, one ended in a conviction and two in acquittals, said the report. All other chargesheeted cases are pending trial.

The last conviction was recorded in 2014, the government told the Lok Sabha in March last year. In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau had not yet started publishing data on the disposal of sedition cases by the police and courts.

Sedition is dealt with under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, and punishment could extend to life imprisonment. The section describes an offender as anyone who by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection, towards the government established by the law India. It, however, exempts comments expressing disapprobation of measures or administrative actions of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection. It even defines the expression disaffection as an act that includes disloyalty and feelings of enmity.

However, the interpretation of the law by India’s law enforcement agencies has been controversial. Civil right activists have said that the application of the sedition law in several cases was excessive. The questions revolving around sedition have been dealt with by the Supreme Court several times.

“One must understand that only an act of violence committed to overthrow the government qualifies as a case of sedition,” said senior advocate Prashant Bhushan. “But these days we get to see people getting charged with sedition for comments on social media and even celebrations after cricket matches. Such cases, which are pursued more as a tool of harassment, finally stand weak in the court of law and so the conviction rate is abysmally low.”

So far, 2017 has seen some curious sedition cases. In two of them, people were booked for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s win in a cricket match against India in June. While the charge of sedition was dropped in one of the two cases (reported in Madhya Pradesh), the chargesheet in the other case (reported in Rajasthan) is yet to be filed, police officials said.

In a recent case, an engineering student from Pune who had allegedly approached several candidates before the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections held earlier this month and offered to rig electronic voting machines for them was charged with sedition.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.