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5 high profile sedition cases in India

Last updated on: September 13, 2012 09:25 IST

5 high profile sedition cases in India

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The arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was charged with sedition for his 'offensive' cartoons, has once again brought into focus the contentious law under the Indian Penal Code.

Sedition as defined under IPC Section 124 A says, "Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine."     

Interestingly, India's first prime minister had described this section as "highly objectionable and obnoxious". 

Several Indians in the past have been charged under this act. Prominent freedom fighters charged with sedition law include Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mohandas Gandhi.

Section 124A was introduced by the British colonial government in 1870 when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with the offence.

We list a few cases where individuals were charged with sedition resulting in a fierce public debate on the subject.

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Aseem Trivedi

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Charged with sedition, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was on sent to jail for two weeks by a Mumbai court but was released on bail after police said it did not require his custody anymore two days after his arrest that has sparked an outrage.

Trivedi did not apply for bail in the case until the sedition charge, for which maximum punishment is life imprisonment, was dropped, even as the Maharashtra government sought to distance itself from the case.

He was arrested in Mumbai on Saturday under IPC Section 124 (sedition), section 66 A of Information Technology Act and section 2 of Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act.

The Kanpur-based artist has been accused of putting up banners mocking the Constitution during a rally of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai late last year and posting the same on his website.

One cartoon titled, 'Gang rape of Mother India' shows a 'Mother India' dressed in a tri-colour sari, with politicians and bureaucrats about to assault her, with a gleeful beast standing by described as 'Corruption'. One cartoon shows India's national emblem, the Ashoka Lions, with foxes rather than lions. In the inscription on the emblem, the words 'Satyamev Jayate' are replaced with 'Brashtamev Jayate' (meaning corruption alone triumphs) and a danger sign.  

Trivedi was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by a member of Republican Party of India, Amit Katarnayea.

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Image: Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi


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Binayak Sen

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An Indian pediatrician, public health specialist and activist, Dr Binayak Sen is the national vice-president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties.

Dr Binayak Sen was accused of sedition by the Chhattisgarh government. He, however, was granted bail on April 15, 2011, by the Supreme Court of India which said that no evidence of sedition was produced against the accused by the Chhattisgarh government.

On 24 December, 2010, the Additional Sessions and District Court Judge B P Varma, Raipur, found Binayak Sen, Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha, guilty of sedition for helping Maoists in their fight against the state.

In May 2007, Dr Sen was detained for allegedly supporting the outlawed Naxalites, thereby violating the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

The evidence presented against him included his meetings with the jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal and certain documents allegedly supporting his links with the Naxalites. 

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Image: Binayak Sen


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Arundhati Roy

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Noted writer Arundhati Roy was sought to be charged with sedition for advocating independence for the disputed Kashmir region. 

Arundhati Roy, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others were booked on charges of sedition by Delhi Police for their "anti-India" speech at a seminar in 2010. 

The filing of the FIR came following a directive from a local court on a petition filed by Sushil Pandit who alleged that Geelani and Roy made anti-India speeches at a conference on "Azadi-the Only Way" on October 21, 2010.

Hurriyat leader Geelani shared the dais with Roy and pro-Maoist leader Varavara Rao among others.

Reacting to the court order, Roy had said that perhaps they should "posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru" and cited 14 instances where the first Prime Minister has said about "the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people". 

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Image: Writer and Social Activist Arundhati Roy
Photographs: Reuters

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Praveen Togadia

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Fireband leader Praveen Togadia was in 2003 slapped with the charge of sedition by the Rajasthan government after which an Ajmer court denied bail and extended his judicial remand. The charges include an attempt "to wage a war against the nation."

Togadia, who was jailed on charges of defying the prohibitory orders and ban on distribution of tridents, also faced a charge under Section 121-A of IPC (waging war or attempting anti-national activity).

In a sharp reaction, senior VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore had alleged that the sedition charge was levelled as an afterthought and the Rajasthan government had intentionally applied it so that Togadia was not given bail. 

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Image: Pravin Togadia of the hardline Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) speaks during a gathering in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Simranjit Singh Mann

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Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar, was arrested from Sangrur district of Punjab in connection with four different cases of sedition registered against him.

Mann had raised pro-Khalistan slogans on June 6, 2005 in the golden temple complex on the 21st anniversary of Operation Blue Star.

Mann admitted that he had helped Bhindranwale and his men by distributing arms while he was posted in Faridkot as a senior superintendent of police in the early 1980s.

"The offences committed by him are serious and seditious in nature and he should be prosecuted for the offences. He distributed arms to terrorists and committed heinous crimes. He had also made provocative speeches in Anandpur Sahib and Damdama Sahib as well. He has been booked under 124 A of IPC for waging war against the state," a senior Punjab police officer had said.

Mann was named in the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, but investigations could not substantiate the charges and hence he was not prosecuted in that case.


Image: President of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar Simranjit Singh Mann


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