Sedition case against police protest organizers must be dropped

Amnesty International India
India: 3 June 2016 4:03 pm

The Karnataka state police must drop a sedition case registered against the organizers of a protest seeking better wages and living and working conditions for police personnel.

On 2 June, the police arrested Shashidhar Venugopal, the president of the Akhila Karnataka Police Mahasangha (All-Karnataka Police Association), from his home in Bengaluru, and Basavaraj Koravankar of the Working Police Families Welfare Committee in Dharwad. They have also been accused of other offences under the Indian Penal Code. The two former policemen have spearheaded calls for a state-wide peaceful police strike on 4 June.

Karnataka’s Director-General and Inspector-General of Police told Amnesty International India: “Indiscipline in the police force will not be tolerated. If there are grievances they will be resolved amicably. There is no need for the police force to stage any protest.”

“It is absurd that demands for better wages and working conditions are being dealt with as crimes against the nation,” said Abhirr VP, Campaigner at Amnesty International India.

“Low-ranking police officials often have to endure dismal living and working conditions, and work long hours without any leave. These increase the likelihood of abusive behavior. Karnataka authorities must take concrete steps to improve the working conditions of police officials, and not try to silence protestors by using draconian laws.”

In 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report which examined the working of the police in a number of Indian states, including Karnataka. The report found that most low ranking officers were required to be on-call 24 hours a day, every day. Instead of shifts, many worked long hours, sometimes living in tents or filthy barracks. Many were separated from their families for long periods of time. Police officials said they used ‘short-cuts’, like refusing to register complaints, to deal with heavy workloads and insufficient resources.

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is a colonial-era law that defines ‘sedition’ as any act or attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or…excite disaffection towards the government”. The offence is punishable with life imprisonment.

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