A sessions court on Friday granted six-month interim bail to JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, who were charged with sedition by Delhi Police, with the judge stating that the accused are “highly educated”, have graduated from “premier colleges” and have “no previous criminal record”.
Additional sessions judge Reetesh Singh rejected the argument of the Delhi Police Special Cell that allegations against the duo were different from those against co-accused and JNU students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar. Bail for the two was being granted on “ground of parity”, he stated.
Khalid and Bhattacharya were released from custody late on Friday and reached the JNU campus to a rousing welcome from students.
Kumar, who was granted interim bail for six months on March 2, Khalid and Bhattacharya were arrested for their alleged role in organising a protest in JNU — against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru — during which “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised.
“…keeping in view that no previous criminal record of any nature whatsoever has been alleged and the fact that nothing has been brought on record which could indicate that they are likely to abscond from the jurisdiction of the court… I deem it appropriate to release both the accused on interim bail for a period of six months,” said ASJ Singh, referring to Khalid and Bhattacharya.
“Both present accused are highly educated persons. They have graduated from premier colleges of Delhi University, completed their MA and MPhil from JNU and are currently pursuing PhD programme from JNU…Their credentials and family background as stated in their bail applications have not been contested by the state,” he added.
The sessions court asked the accused to furnish a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each along with surety worth the same amount. Both were furnished by JNU faculty members Rajat Dutta and Sangeeta Dasgupta.
The court said “it is apparent” from the status report filed by police before Delhi High Court during the bail hearing for Kumar that the “case set up… qua co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar was also of organising as well as participating in the said event” and that allegations with respect to Khalid and Bhattacharya “are similar”.
Referring to the statements of witnesses named by police, ASJ Singh said “it does not appear that the role attributed to Kanhaiya Kumar in the statements of these witnesses is any different to the allegations made against the present accused”.
ASJ Singh said that while granting bail the court has to “keep in mind” principles governing consideration of bail and that “factors to be borne in mind” include the “nature and gravity” of the accusation and “severity of punishment in the event of conviction”.
The court said that “it is clear that the law itself provides for a wide spectrum of nature and quantum of punishment” with regard to sedition. However, ASJ Singh added, “I do not wish to delve further in this regard at this stage of matter.”
On the defence’s contention that video footage relied upon by police was under question, the court said that “as claimed by police themselves, the video footage of the incident has been sent to forensic sciences laboratory. Its analysis and final report will certainly take some time.”