Seven months after its standing counsel advised against prosecution sanction to Delhi Police in the 2016 JNU sedition case against former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and nine others, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government has given police the go-ahead.
In an order Thursday, the Deputy Secretary (Home) stated: “Whereas on perusal of the chargesheet under Sections 124-A and 120-B IPC at Vasant Kunj (North) police station, and on consideration of the allegations made in case, and other material and evidences placed on record, it appears to the government of NCT of Delhi that the accused, Kanhaiya Kumar, Syed Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Aquib Hussain, Mujeed Hussain Gattoo, Muneeb Hussain Gattoo, Umair Gul, Rayees Rasool, Basharat Ali and Khalid Bashir Bhat, have prima facie committed an offence under Section 124-A and 120-B IPC.” IPC section 124-A relates to sedition and 120-B to criminal conspiracy.
“And whereas, it is necessary in the interest of the justice that prosecution sanction should be granted against the said accused in the court of competent jurisdiction for their trial in respect of the said offence alleged to have been committed by them. Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by the sub-section (1) of section 196 of CrPC, 1973 (2 of 1974), the government of NCT, Delhi, hereby, grants prosecution sanction against all the ten accused. This issues with the approval of LG, Delhi,” it stated.
In its chargesheet, police claimed that Kumar led a procession and supported — along with others named as accused — seditious slogans raised on the JNU campus on February 9, 2016 during an event to mark the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
दिल्ली सरकार को सेडिशन केस की परमिशन देने के लिए धन्यवाद। दिल्ली पुलिस और सरकारी वक़ीलों से आग्रह है कि इस केस को अब गंभीरता से लिया जाए, फॉस्ट ट्रैक कोर्ट में स्पीडी ट्रायल हो और TV वाली ‘आपकी अदालत’ की जगह क़ानून की अदालत में न्याय सुनिश्चित किया जाए। सत्यमेव जयते।
— Kanhaiya Kumar (@kanhaiyakumar) February 28, 2020
Responding to the Delhi government’s move, Kanhaiya Kumar, in Twitter posts, said: “I thank the Delhi government for giving permission in the sedition case. I request the Delhi Police and government lawyers to take the case seriously now, conduct speedy trial in a fast-track court and justice be guaranteed in a court of law and not in TV’s ‘Aap ki Adalat’. Satyamev Jayate… A fast-track court and quick action is important in a sedition case so that the country knows how, in this instance, the sedition law was misused for political gain and to distract people from basic issues.”
AAP’s nationalism pitch
The prosecution sanction, coming as it does after its comprehensive electoral win in Delhi, signals AAP’s recalibration of politics around nationalism.
The wait for prosecution sanction had been a constant irritant in the already strained ties between the AAP government in Delhi and the Centre. Police claimed the trial was stalled for want of sanction and several BJP leaders accused AAP of shielding the students by not giving the go-ahead.
On February 5, in the run-up to the Delhi Assembly election, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told a poll meeting in East Delhi’s Kondli that if the BJP were to be voted to power, it would grant prosecution sanction against Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, as well as JNU PhD student Sharjeel Imam, “within one hour” of forming the government.
“As soon as Sharjeel’s statement came to light, Kejriwal tweeted asking for his arrest. I said that for the first time, Kejriwal is talking about patriotism. I immediately got him (Sharjeel) arrested and he was put behind bars. But now that prosecution sanction is needed against Kanhaiya, Umar Khalid and Sharjeel, he (Kejriwal) has not given permission… My throat has run dry asking him if he will give permission or not,” Shah told the crowd.
In July last year, Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra, when asked for an opinion by the government, was learnt to have said that activities of the accused “do not amount to sedition against the State” and that the evidence on record was “flimsy” and riddled with “gaps”.
But on Friday, AAP MLA Raghav Chadha said the government “as a matter of policy and as a matter of principle, does not and has not intervened in any of such cases… The Law department of Delhi govt has, after conducting due diligence, given its opinion on this matter to the Home department… Our government has not stopped prosecution in any case, whatsoever, in the last 5 years.”
“We believe that judiciary and judiciary alone should decide on the merits of each case. It is not for governments to decide on the merits of such cases… Our government has not stopped prosecution in any case, including those pertaining to our own MLAs and party leaders… It is only fair for the permanent executive as well as political executive to not intervene in the process of law and let the judiciary perform its independent function,” he said.
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