TAKING a strict view against alleged “anti-national slogans” raised on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on February 9, the Delhi High Court today granted six-month interim bail to JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar with the condition that he give an undertaking that he would not “actively or passively” participate in such an activity again.
The bench of Justice Pratibha Rani, in its order, held that “the thoughts reflected in the slogans raised by some of the students of JNU who organised and participated in that programme cannot be claimed to be protected as fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression”, and that the court would “consider this as a kind of infection which needs to be controlled/cured before it becomes an epidemic”.
“Whenever some infection is spread in a limb,” the court said, “effort is made to cure the same by giving antibiotics orally and if that does not work, by following second line of treatment. Sometimes it may require surgical intervention also. However, if the infection results in infecting the limb to the extent that it becomes gangrene, amputation is the only treatment.”
Noting that Kumar “might have introspected about the events that had taken place” during his 20-day custody, the judge held she was “inclined to provide conservative method of treatment” and granted interim bail.
The court invoked the role of soldiers. “While dealing with the bail application of the petitioner, it has to be kept in mind by all concerned that they are enjoying this freedom only because our borders are guarded by our armed and paramilitary forces.” said the court. “Suffice it to note that such persons enjoy the freedom to raise such slogans in the comfort of University Campus but without realising that they are in this safe environment because our forces are there at the battle field situated at the highest altitude of the world where even the oxygen is so scarce that those who are shouting anti-national slogans holding posters of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt close to their chest honoring their martyrdom, may not be even able to withstand those conditions for an hour even.”
The court added: “The kind of slogans raised may have a demoralizing effect on the family of those martyrs who returned home in a coffin draped in Tricolor.”
The 23-page order included photographs of JNU students in the protest, including those holding Afzal Guru posters.
Kumar, who is the President of the JNU Students Union, was arrested on February 12 on charges of criminal conspiracy and sedition. The police had alleged that he was one of the “organisers” of the event held to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Kumar, in his plea, had sought bail claiming that he did not raise any anti-India slogans and that he was not part of the event. The bench has noted that the Delhi police had admitted that Kumar had “not been seen” raising any anti-national slogans in the video footage available.
“As President of JNUSU the petitioner was expected to be responsible and accountable for any anti national event organized in the campus,” observed the bench.
The court further noted that the exact role of Kanhaiya was currently under investigation, and the charges of sedition could vary from very lenient offence punishable only by a fine to stringent offence which could carry life imprisonment.
The court has now directed that apart from a Rs 10,000 bail bond, Kanhaiya would also have to “furnish an undertaking to the effect that he will not participate actively or passively in any activity which may be termed as anti-national. Apart from that, as President of JNU Students Union, he will make all efforts within his power to control anti-national activities in the campus.”
The bench also directed that the person acting as surety for Kanhaiya should be a faculty member or a relative who “can exercise control on the petitioner not only with respect to appearance before the Court but also to ensure that his thoughts and energy are channelized in a constructive manner.”
The surety may also have to submit a similar undertaking.
Observing that Kanhaiya in his bail plea had raised the issue of freedom of speech and expression, the bench noted that Kumar belonged to the “intellectual class” and had a “political affiliation and ideology”.
“He has every right to pursue that but it can be only within the framework of our
Constitution,” held the court, which has also said that students have “to be reminded that under Part IV under Article 51 A of the Constitution of India fundamental duties of every citizen have been specified, along with the fact that rights and duties are two sides of the same coin.”
“The feelings or the protest reflected in these slogans need introspection by the student community,” said the bench, adding that the faculty of JNU also “has to play its role in guiding them to the right path so that they can contribute to the growth of the nation and to achieve the object and vision for which Jawaharlal Nehru University was established.”
“The reason behind anti-national views in the mind of students who raised slogans on the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was convicted for attack on our Parliament, which led to this situation have not only to be found by them but remedial steps are also required to be taken in this regard by those managing the affairs of the JNU so that there is no recurrence of such incident,” the court has said.
Kumar was arrested on February 12 on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy after alleged “anti-national” slogans were raised on the JNU campus on February 9.
Two other JNU students, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, accused of raising anti-India slogans during the event, are in judicial custody.