Amidst unprecedented security in the court premises, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Delhi Police and directed it to submit a status report on the bail plea of JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested for sedition.
The Delhi High Court premises turned into a fortress on Tuesday morning, with dozens of police and court security personnel scanning ID cards at each entryway leading to courtroom 29. The entry into the courtroom itself was restricted, with security staff checking names of lawyers involved in the case off a list and not allowing even members of the Bar Association to enter the courtroom. Only six journalists were allowed inside, with their mobile phones remaining outside.
In a first, a metal detector gate was installed outside the courtroom door, and every person entering the courtroom was scanned before entry.
Justice Pratibha Rani issued notice to Delhi Police and asked it to file status report on the investigation by Wednesday morning.
The brief hearing before the bench of Justice Pratibha Rani lasted less than 10 minutes, most of which was taken up by an argument between Delhi Government standing counsel Rahul Mehra and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who had been appointed to represent the Delhi Police by the Delhi LG on the issue of who would be representing the police in the case.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi police, argued that since it was a pre-chargesheet bail application, the police should be allowed to file the status report in a sealed cover. The bench, however, rejected the request, commenting that, “It’s just a bail application and the petitioners have the right to know.”
The court also directed the Delhi police to give a copy of its status report on the bail plea to Kanhaiya’s counsel Rebecca John.
During the brief hearing, Rahul Mehra said that he should be allowed to represent Delhi police in Kanhaiya’s bail plea. ASGs Tushar Mehta and Sanjay Jain opposed the argument, stating that Mehta and advocate Shailendra Babbar had been appointed as special public prosecutor in the case by Lt. Governor.
The bench refused to entertain the argument, observing that there was “no time for petty issues” adding that the court “would not hear the arguments without the status report.”
Mehra in his arguments also said that since Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi had made a statement saying Kanhaiya’s bail plea will not be opposed, the “Status report to be filed by commissioner’s office.” Outside the courtroom, however, advocate Shailendra Babbar gave a statement to the media that the police would be opposing the bail plea.
Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy on February 12 after an event held on the JNU campus against hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. He had been accused of allegedly shouting anti-India slogans during the rally.
Meanwhile, two pleas were mentioned before Justice BD Ahmed and Justice RK Gauba on the JNU issue. Two students named in the sedition case – Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya – approached the high court with a plea to get police protection so that they are able to leave the campus and can surrender before the high court bench.
A second plea was moved by a law student seeking court directions for the police to enter the university premises and arrest all the persons named in the FIR, and to take criminal action against the JNU faculty and authorities for “obstructing” the police from taking action. Both pleas are set to be heard after 2 pm.