Bengaluru, Oct 01, 2020: Karnataka has recorded the highest number of sedition cases and cases related to crimes against the State in the country in 2019, as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, which was released on Wednesday.
During this period, Karnataka registered 22 sedition cases against 23 persons, while insurgency-prone States like Jammu and Kashmir and many in the North East reported far fewer. It also registered 14 cases in sections related to other crimes against the State, taking the total number of cases booked for crimes against the State to 36. This is the highest for any State in the country for 2019.
Lack of discretion
Senior advocate S. Balan, who has worked as a defence advocate in several sedition cases, said the State police has lost a sense of discretion when it comes to filing sedition cases. “They are being filed at the drop of a hat. During the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, sedition cases were booked against a person for holding a placard saying ‘Free Kashmir’. Another case was booked against an individual who said ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. The lower judiciary is also not using its discretion,” he said.
Mr. Balan also argued that sedition cases were being misused to target critics of the incumbent regime at the Centre. “People from minority communities were mostly the targets,” he added.
However, NCRB data also points to another trend. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, seems to be the preferred law to tackle such crimes in other parts of the country, but not in Karnataka. While even Tamil Nadu registered 270 UAPA cases, Manipur, 306, and Jammu and Kashmir 255 cases, Karnataka registered only seven cases under UAPA. “However, Karnataka police are also fast catching up to this trend. How is it that the rioters at D.J. Halli were booked under UAPA? They do not belong to any proscribed organisation. It is an uneven legal response to the crime committed,” he said.
The crime rate in Karnataka for 2019 has only marginally increased compared to the previous year. As per the data, the State recorded a crime rate of 248.1 per lakh of population last year - a middling crime rate when compared to larger States in the country.
It recorded one of the lowest crime rates in rape at 1.6 per lakh of population. Only Bihar and Tamil Nadu have a lower rate.
Highest number of cases under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act
Karnataka has remained one of the States that continues to report one of the highest cases registered under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. It reported 1,504 cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes in 2019, up from 1,325 in 2018. It also reported 392 cases of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes, marginally higher than 2018. This only indicates better reporting of atrocities by Dalits, senior officials in the Karnataka Police maintain.