The Delhi Police, while opposing the bail pleas of JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya in court Wednesday, said they had in their evidence cellphone footage that showed the two “leading the mob and raising anti-national slogans”.
Umar and Anirban were arrested on charges of sedition on February 24, over an event held in campus on February 9 against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, and they are currently lodged in Tihar Jail. JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, also arrested on sedition charge over the same event, was released on bail earlier this month.
However, police told Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Reteesh Singh that the “nature of allegations” against Khalid and Bhattacharya was “different” from that against co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar, who was released on bail earlier.
The Special Cell of Delhi Police, which is probing the sedition case, told the ASJ that they were relying on the cellphone video recorded by JNU staffer Jaspreet Singh. The video, they said, showed the two JNU students “leading the mob and raising anti-national slogans.”
Special Cell investigators told the court that an “independent witness” — PhD scholar Akhilesh Phatak “who was not affiliated to any political front in campus” — had said both Umar and Anirban were present during the alleged “anti-national” sloganeering in campus.
Police also claimed that videos recorded in cellphones “seized from two independent witnesses” allegedly showed both students involved in sloganeering. The footage has been sent for forensic analysis to verify its authenticity, said police.
On the alleged role of Umar in organising the February 9 event, the Special Cell told the court that they had gone through his e-mails and “recovered posters”, which showed that Umar “finalised the poster and content of the event”.
Additional Public Prosecutor Irfan Ahmed told ASJ Singh, “The probe… has revealed that both the accused were organisers of the event and both led the mob which raised the anti-national slogans. We have now fresh independent evidence, a video footage…”
He added, “The e-mail communication of Umar also confirms that… the content of the posters and the final call regarding the same was done by him, which further proves his role…”
The court has reserved its order on Umar and Anirban’s bail pleas for March 18.
The lawyers defending the two JNU students argued that charges of sedition could not be made out against them and they should be granted bail on the grounds of parity with Kumar.
“Even if one believes the prosecution case, that anti-national sloganeering took place, that does not attract sedition charge. The alleged act should either incite violence or have tendency to create public disorder, only then can charges of sedition be invoked. Mere advocacy or criticising the government itself cannot be termed as being seditious. The police has urgency to register case under sedition without understanding the Supreme Court’s judgment,” said Bhattacharya’s defence counsel Trideep Pais.