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Delhi police had filed its chargesheet against Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhhatacharya and others on January 14

In an interesting twist to the controversial JNU sedition case, the Patiala House Court, on Saturday (January 19), refused to accept the chargesheet filed by the Delhi police against former university students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid, Anirban Bhattacharya and others.

The court pulled up the Delhi police for not seeking approval from the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government’s legal department prior to filing the chargesheet. The counsel for Delhi police is learnt to have informed the court that the necessary approval will be taken within 10 days but failed to explain why it was not sought before the chargesheet was filed.

On January 14, the Delhi police had filed its chargesheet in what has come to be known as the JNU sedition case. The case relates to an event organized in the JNU campus on February 9, 2016, reportedly to mark the death anniversary of Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru and protest against alleged subversion of the law and due process that preceded his hanging in the Tihar Jail premises on February 9, 2013.

Kanhaiya Kumar was the president of the JNU Students’ Union when the event was organized. Though an FIR was filed against Kumar, his comrades Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid and Anirban Bhattacharya and several other students following the event, it took the Delhi police nearly three years to file the chargesheet.

The FIR states that “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised at the event by Kumar and others. The police claims it has relied on “forensic evidence, testimonies of other students, videos from the event and news reports about it,” to arrive at the conclusion that sedition charges can be invoked against the accused.

In its voluminous 1200 chargesheet, filed along with a slew of documents, forensic evidence and video footage, the police has invoked various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 124A 323, 465, 471,143, 149, 147, 120B, against the former students. The police’s decision to slap the sedition charge against Kanhaiya and others has since triggered a fresh controversy since the apex court has already made serious comments against the wanton use of the sedition law by the police and the State ostensibly to curb dissent.

It may be recalled that the case against Kumar, Khalid and Rashid had thrust the three students to instant stardom of sorts, giving them a youth icon status and making them faces of the resistance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP’s alleged crackdown on dissent, particularly in educational institutions. Protests had also erupted across educational campuses in the country against the persecution of Kumar and his fellow students. Ever since, Kumar and Rashid have been regulars at many public events organized to speak against the alleged tyranny of the Modi government and its efforts to muzzle criticism of any sort.

That the filing of the chargesheet comes months before the Lok Sabha poll campaign has expectedly given the Opposition as well as Kumar and his comrades a chance to scream political vendetta. Besides Kumar, Khalid, Bhattacharya and Rashid, sedition charges have also been slapped against Aparajita, daughter of CPI leader D Raja.

Kumar has already declared his willingness to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from a constituency in Bihar as an independent candidate supported by the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress party and other smaller political outfits in Bihar. It is being speculated that Rashid too could mark her electoral debut from a constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, either in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls or the assembly elections in the state that is currently under President’s Rule and will go to the hustings in April-May.

Soon after the chargesheet was filed on January 14, Kumar had said: “all of these, starting from the Citizenship Amendment Bill to the 10 percent quota act to now this charge, are being brought at the same time to coincide with the election. Why was so much time taken to file a chargesheet for sedition? I can see a complete lack of seriousness on the part of the Narendra Modi-government regarding everything.”

Taking a swipe at Modi and the Delhi Police, which comes under Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Kumar had added: “If the news is true that a chargesheet has been filed, I would like to thank police and Modi Ji. The filing of chargesheet after 3 years, ahead of elections clearly shows it to be politically motivated. I trust the judiciary of my country.”

—India Legal Bureau

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