While police departments across the country have been filing an increasing number of cases under sedition over the last three years, the percentage of people being convicted under this law has been falling steadily over the same period, reveals a data analysed by News18.
The recently released data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2019 — when compared to the data of previous two years 2018 and 2017 — shows that there has been an upsurge in the number of sedition cases in India. While 51 cases were reported in 2017, the number grew to 70 in 2018 and to 93 in 2019.
At the same time, conviction rate, that is, the number of cases that went up to trial stage where they were upheld by the court, fell from 16.7 per cent in 2017 to 15.4 in 2018 to just 3.3 per cent in 2019. In 2017, the court ordered acquittal of the accused in five cases, in 2018 in 11 cases and in 2019 in 29 cases. The proportion of sedition cases where charge sheets were filed also fell from 71.1 per cent in 2017, to 69.1 per cent in 2018 to 57.1 per cent the following year.
Interestingly, the conviction rate for cases where accused were charged with Official Secrets Act (OSA), the act under which recently a Delhi based journalist was booked, was zero per cent in 2019. Just one case came up for hearing where the accused was charged under OSA, in which the court announced acquittal of the accused.
OSA is a crime which, together with sedition and acts such as UAPA, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, Imputation, assertions prejudicial to national integration, is categorised under the crime subhead ‘offences against the state’. When News18 analysed cases where people were booked for committing offences against the state, the pattern turned out to be almost similar to the one observed in cases of sedition. While more people were being booked for committing offences against the state, fewer convictions were being seen over the years.
In 2017, a total of 160 cases were booked under this subhead. In 2018, the number of cases registered under the same category fell to 149. But the following year 166 cases were registered which were categorised as offences committed against the state. But while 15.4 per cent people were ultimately convicted under this subhead in 2017, 13 per cent people were convicted in 2018 and the corresponding percentage fell to 8.5 per cent in 2019.
The number of cases where the accused were acquitted was 10 in 2017, in 2018 the number grew to 19 and in 2019 this number was 42. Also, as in the case of sedition charges, the proportion of cases where police filed charge sheets also saw a steady dip from 56.7 per cent in 2017 to 53.2 per cent in 2018 to 57.1 per cent the following year.