Here’s a reality check to the Delhi Police’s 1,200-page sedition chargesheet against former JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar and nine others for an event held on campus in 2016: official data show only two of 18 persons against whom trial was completed in three years on sedition charges were convicted.
The others were either discharged or acquitted.
According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) from 2014 to 2016 — the only period for which figures are available for sedition cases on its database — a total of 179 people were arrested on this charge. However, by the end of 2016, police had not filed a chargesheet in over 80 per cent of cases. In courts, over 90 per cent of sedition cases are pending trial.
“Barring a few cases of terrorism, where charges of sedition have also been invoked, most of the sedition cases are of political nature. They are either slapped against an activist or against some group or students protesting against the government. Police already know the fate of these cases and unless pushed, hardly focus on them. Because they are already on thin ground when taken to court, they fall through,” a senior police officer told The Indian Express.
The NCRB data also show a spike in sedition arrests since the beginning of 2014, when only nine persons were either in custody or on bail pending investigation. By that year-end, 58 new arrests were recorded but police were able to file chargesheets against only 16 accused.
In the courts, as many 29 sedition accused, including those from pending cases, were brought on trial in 2014. But trial was completed against only four accused that year, leaving a pendency of over 77 per cent, the data show — three of the accused were acquitted.
In 2015, 73 new arrests were recorded on charges of sedition. Along with the backlog of 2014, the number of accused pending investigation stood at 124.
Police, however, could complete investigations in only 13 cases. In three cases, the accused were released by courts before trial could begin. And by that year-end, 108 cases were pending investigation, with the rate of pendency rising to 87 per cent.
Data for 2015 also show that 38 persons accused of sedition stood trial that year. But trial could be completed only against 11, and none were convicted.
In 2016, 48 fresh sedition arrests were recorded. Along with cases pending, records list 156 accused against whom investigations were not completed that year. Chargesheets were filed against 26, leaving a pendency of 83 per cent.
For 2016, trial was completed in only three of 34 sedition cases, with one conviction and two acquittals.