New Delhi: The Congress and the government engaged Tuesday in a war of words in Lok Sabha over sedition cases. The Opposition party alleged the stringent law is being misused. The Congress statement drew a sharp retort from Union Minister G Kishan Reddy who asked it not to lecture others on democracy.
During the Question Hour, Congress member from Telangana, Anumula Revanth Reddy sought the number of cases registered under the offence of sedition across India during the last 10 years, the conviction rate and the steps taken for their speedy trial.
The focus of his question was on climate activist Disha Ravi who was arrested in the farmer protest toolkit case earlier this year. Later she was granted bail, and cases registered against farmer union leaders after the January 26 violence in the national capital.
Reddy, the Minister of State in the Home Ministry, tabled a written response to the question in the House.
The minister said 47 cases of sedition were registered in 2014; 30 in 2015; 35 in 2016; 51 in 2017; 70 in 2018 and 93 in 2019. “There is no direct involvement of the Centre in sedition cases,” the minister said.
However, Anumula was not satisfied with the response. He said he had sought details for 10 years but the information was provided only from 2014-2019. He asserted ‘giving half information is taking the House towards a wrong direction’. He added that after 2014, anyone who criticises the government’s policy, the person is charged with sedition.
“In 2019, the conviction rate (for sedition) was 3.3 per cent. This means these are politically motivated cases. If a youth leader is booked for sedition and the cases drags for 4-5 year, he/she is not in a position of comfort. They won’t get a job, passport, visa. Activists like Disha Ravi are charged, but they are not able to prove anything in the court,” Anumala said.
Anumala also asked whether there is a proposal to drop the ‘false charges’ against farmer union leaders protesting against the Centre’s three farm laws.
In response, the minister said the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data is based on the information received from all the states. Attacking the Congress, Reddy said, “The member (Anumala) asked as to why the information was not provided before 2014. In case of sedition cases, when the Congress was in power it did not maintain any separate data on this. They clubbed it with all the IPC crimes.”
The minister added that after the Modi government took charge, it started presenting a separate data on the sedition charges. “…After the rise of social media, after the media awareness…They also give big speeches on democracy. But even after that the cases of sedition are very less,” the minister said.
Manish Tewari, another Congress member, had questions on similar lines. He said Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which deals with sedition was being misused and used to suppress freedom of expression. Hitting back, the minister said the Congress need not lecture on misuse as it had used the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) against opposition leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.