New Delhi: According to multiple media reports, the Delhi government has said that it will not be granting the police sanction to prosecute former Jawaharlal Nehru Students students who were charged with sedition after an event on campus in February 2016.
The state’s Home Department thinks that the students – including Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and nine others – should not be prosecuted because their activities “do not amount to sedition against the State”, Indian Express reported.
The evidence on record is “flimsy” and filled with “gaps”, the government has reportedly said, based on advice from standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra.
Prosecuting may “jeopardise the life of the chargesheeted persons, who are all students”, the Delhi government has said.
The charges against the JNU students have been criticised over the last few years as being part of the Central government’s attempt to crack down on dissent and punish those who disagree with it. It has also been argued that this is a misuse of the sedition law, as the Supreme Court has made it clear that the charges stand only if there is an actual incitement to violence.
Now, more than 3.5 years after the case was filed, the Delhi government has reportedly come to a decision. “The case does not amount to sedition against the state and an attack on the sovereignty of the nation by inciting violence and no case for prosecution under Section 124A of the IPC made against the 10 accused persons chargesheeted in the instant case,” Hindustan Times quoted a file noting as saying.
“…the accused persons had no intention to incite violence or public disorder, the alleged slogans cannot be clearly attributed to the accused persons and the alleged slogans were divorced with an intention to attack the sovereignty of the state,” it continues.
However, the noting continues that the accused may perhaps be prosecuted under other sections of the Indian Penal Code mentioned in the chargesheet.
According to the Indian Express, officials have said that even the chargesheet does not make the case for sedition. “According to the page number 856 of the chargesheet, even the complainant — Delhi Police inspector Virender Singh — did not mention any anti-national sloganeering by anyone with pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order,” the newspaper quoted a senior official as saying.
Some of the video tapes run be TV channels immediately after the event, which allegedly showed the students “anti-national” slogans, were later found to be doctored. In 2017, it was reported that the Delhi police was having a tough time finding other evidence.
The Delhi government’s file noting also refers to the doctored videos, and says the sloganeering on campus was because two different political groups were mocking or degrading each other, but not attacking the state or sovereignty.
The next hearing of the case is on September 18. Over the last few trial dates, the court has been urging the Delhi government to decide on whether or not it was going to grant sanction to prosecute. In April this year, the Arvind Kejriwal government had criticised the police for filing the chargesheet in the case in a “hasty” and “secretive” manner.