Karnataka police yet to file charge-sheets in 3 sedition cases filed a year ago
A year after filing sedition cases against a researcher, the mother of an 11-year-old school student and a 20-year-old activist, the Karnataka Police is yet to submit a charge sheet in any of the cases, officials and lawyers said.
The police officers in charge of these cases said they were still evaluating evidence and seeking legal opinion on the cases, which has caused the delay in filing of charge sheets. The police have, however, filed charge sheets against three Kashmiri students arrested for circulating a video chanting pro-Pakistan slogans.
Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that Karnataka registered the maximum number of sedition cases, 22, by any state in 2019 and was able to file a charge-sheet in 13 . This marked an eleven-fold increase in sedition cases registered in Karnataka in 2019 compared to 2018.
These four cases become high-profile because of the accused, who, are now out on bail and have moved away from the limelight.
The defendants in two of these three cases — 19-year-old activist Amulya Leona and mother of the 11-year-old, Najbunnisa — spent weeks behind the bars. As per the rules, in a sedition case, a charge-sheet should be filed within 90 days.
On February 20, 2020, Leona was arrested on sedition charges for shouting “Pakistan zindabad” during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, in Bengaluru. She spent 110 days in jail before getting bail.
“Vasudeva Kutumbakam (the world is one family) is engraved at the entrance hall of the Parliament of India. Didn’t Amulya say the same thing?” asked Amulya’s lawyer BT Venkatesh.
He said that before delivering her speech, Leona posted on her social media accounts the following message: “Hindustan zindabad, Pakistan zindabad, Bangladesh zindabad, Sri Lanka zindabad, Nepal zindabad, Afghanistan zindabad, China zindabad, Nepal zindabad... whichever country it may be, zindabad to all countries.”
Leona and her family refused to speak on the case and a fellow activist said she has moved with her mother to another part of the state. Deputy commissioner of police, Bangalore west, Sanjeev M Patil, who is in charge of the investigation, didn’t answer calls. However, another police officer said on condition of anonymity that the department was evaluating he evidence.
Not child’s play
In north Karnataka’s Bidar, more than a year (January 26, 2020) after a short clip of a children’s play in a school led to a sedition case, police are still examining electronic evidence.
The school’s headmistress and a student’s mother were arrested on charges of sedition. The play was staged on January 21, 2020, and a video of the play went viral on social media a few days later. The mother of a student in the play and the school’s headmistress were arrested 10 days later.
In the video, a student can be heard saying: “The government is telling Muslims to leave India and go... Amma, I’m scared. Where do we go, leaving our home, our country and our livelihood?”
Once the video went viral, a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) filed a police complaint.
“...for more than a week, about 85 students (aged between 9-12) of our school were questioned for more than five hours a day. The kids who were in the play had their pictures clicked,” said Thouseef Madikeri, CEO of Shaheen Educational Institute that runs the school.
After spending 14 days in jail, the mother of the child was granted bail. “What the children have expressed is that they will have to leave the country if they don’t produce certain documents and except that, there is nothing to show that the student committed the offence of sedition...,” the judge at the lower court said.
Bidar superintendent of police, Nagesh DL, said the investigations are still under way. He said a final call on the case will be taken only after the police receive legal advice.
Mysuru-based researcher, Maridevaiah Shivanna left his family for over a month after a sedition case was slapped against him on January 9, 2020 — for organising a protest, where a person unknown to him held a placard reading “Free Kashmir.”
“I didn’t know who she was. I don’t know where she came from. After the violence (on January 5, 2020) at JNU, we ...protested at the main gate,” he said.
It was only a day later that Maridevaiah realised that the police were looking for him. “Since the students were being arrested in Bengaluru without bail, I was told by my family to leave the city...The thought that I had to abscond from my house for no fault of mine, it had taken a toll on me,” he said.
Nalini, an alumna of the University of Mysore who held the poster, too was booked for sedition. She was unavailable for comment.
When asked about the status of the case, a senior Mysuru police officer who asked not to be named said “permission for prosecution sanction” is awaited, which is mandatory for cases such as sedition. He said that charge-sheet will be filed after obtaining sanction.
While the police are yet to file a charge-sheet in this case, Bidar police have filed one against three Kashmiri students arrested on charges of sedition. On 15 February 2020, the three students of KLE Institute of Technology were arrested on charges of sedition, for allegedly circulating a video of themselves chanting pro-Pakistan slogans.
They spent 111 days in jail before the court granted them bail since the police failed to file a charge sheet within the stipulated 90 days. Hubbali police filed a charge-sheet in the case only on June 4, 2020.
Lapse in supervision, says former police chief
“If the police department is not able to file charge-sheets or doesn’t have the intent to file charge-sheets, what is the implied meaning? When you lodge an FIR in a spur of the moment, to send a loud message or to deter the accused or because of the political consideration, (and) when there isn’t enough material to prosecute, police often keep quiet,” said ST Ramesh, former director general and inspector general of Karnataka police. He added that the delay showed a clear lapse in supervision, he added.