Two years after the Delhi Police filed a charge sheet, and a year after the Arvind Kejriwal government granted prosecution sanction, a Delhi court on Monday took cognisance of the charges against former JNU Students' Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and nine others in the 2016 JNU sedition case, summoning the accused on 15 March.
The Delhi Police had filed a charge sheet in January 2019 against Kumar and former JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans during an event on the university campus on 9 February 2016 to commemorate the hanging of Parliament-attack mastermind Afzal Guru. The others charge-sheeted in the case are Kashmiri students Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayeea Rassol, Bashir Bhat, and Basharat.
The Delhi government had given a go-ahead to the city police to prosecute the accused in February last year. According to rules, investigating agencies need the state government's approval while filing a charge sheet in sedition cases.
One of the accused, Khalid, is already in jail under UAPA in a separate case linked to the 2020 Delhi riots.
According to an Indian Express report, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Patiala House Courts) Dr Pankaj Sharma took cognisance of the charge sheet and said, "The sanction to prosecute accused persons has already been filed by the Home Department, GNCT [Delhi government], dated February 27, 2020. After careful perusal of the charge sheet and consideration of the material, all the accused persons are summoned to face trial, and they have been summoned through investigation officer for March 15, 2021.”
What are the charges?
A case was registered on 11 February 2016 under Sections 124A and 120B of the IPC against unidentified persons at the Vasant Kunj (North) police station, following complaints from BJP MP Maheish Girri and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The said event had taken place despite the university administration cancelling permission, following a complaint from the ABVP, which had termed it as "anti-national."
The police have alleged that Kumar had incited the mob to shout anti-India slogans.
The accused have been charged with offences under Sections 124A (sedition), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 465 (punishment for forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 143 (punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly), 149 (being a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (punishment for rioting), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
The charge sheet also contains CCTV footage, mobile footage, and documentary evidence.
Who are the accused?
Former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and former JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are the main accused in the case. The others charge-sheeted in the case are Kashmiri students Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayeea Rassol, Bashir Bhat and Basharat.
As many as 36 others, including Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja's daughter Aprajita, Shehla Rashid (then vice-president of the JNUSU), Rama Naga, Ashutosh Kumar, and Banojyotsna Lahiri have been named in column 12 of the charge sheet due to insufficient evidence against them.
Controversy over prosecution sanction
The prosecution sanction was granted nearly a year after a city court asked the AAP government to take a decision within a reasonable time frame, and noted that the delay was leading to violation of the due process of law.
The Delhi government had then told the court that the police had filed the charge sheet in the 2016 incident in a "secret and hasty manner," without obtaining the approval of the competent authority.
The sanction was finally granted by the Delhi government on 20 February last year. Two weeks before the sanction, Home Minister Amit Shah, while campaigning for the Delhi assembly election, had said that if the BJP were to be voted to power, it would grant prosecution sanction against Kumar and Khalid “within one hour” of forming the government.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on 19 February had said he would ask the department concerned to take an "expeditious decision" on the granting sanction to prosecute Kanhaiya and others in the sedition case.
(With PTI inputs)