The Delhi government has decided to turn down the Delhi Police request for sanction to prosecute former JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and other students who have been accused of sedition, sources told The Indian Express.
The Home Department is of the view that the activities of the accused, during an event on campus on February 9, 2016, “do not amount to sedition against the State”. The case is scheduled to come up in a city court on September 18.
The government, it is learnt, formed its opinion after finding the evidence on record “flimsy” and riddled with “gaps”, while also taking into account its Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra’s advice.
According to the Home Department, in view of the material placed on record, the FIR “does not amount to sedition against the state and an attack on the sovereignty of the nation by inciting violence and no case for prosecution sanction under Section 124A of IPC is made out against the 10 accused persons charge-sheeted. Thus the sanction u/s 196 CrPC is unwarranted”, an official said.
Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain and Principal Secretary (Home) Renu Sharma did not respond to calls and texts from The Indian Express seeking comment. A government spokesperson said: “The decision, whatever that may be, will be taken based on perusal of the material made available by the police.”
The department is also learnt to have given its opinion that the accused be charged under IPC sections mentioned in the FIR lodged at the Vasant Kunj (north) police station, after obtaining the approval of the competent authority as prosecution sanction under Section 196 CrPC is not required in case of the other charges.
The department has also questioned the police “urgency” in filing the chargesheet without obtaining prior sanction as mandated by Section 196 CrPC in case of charges of sedition. The department said police sought sanction “post” filing the chargesheet.
Delhi Police maintained that they had applied for sanction an hour before filing the chargesheet.
Officials said the department has pointed out that the slogans allegedly raised during the 2016 event cannot be attributed to the accused and were not aimed at attacking the sovereignty of India as they were part of sloganeering between two political forums of students.
The government assessed that from ground witnesses to the JNU administration, no one has been able to provide sufficient evidence against the chargesheeted persons that merits prosecution under Section 124A.
Even the video evidence cited by the police in the chargesheet fails to pin-point the real faces behind the alleged “anti-national slogans”, according to the assessment.
“According to the page number 856 of the chargesheet, even the complainant — Delhi Police inspector Virender Singh — did not mention any anti-national sloganeering by anyone with pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order,” a senior official said.
“Pages 728-798 of the charge-sheet observes that going by videos presented by Zee News, anti-national slogans from the gathering could be heard, but it cannot be attributed to the 10 chargesheeted persons, including Kanhaiya,” the official said.
Police, in its chargesheet, had claimed that Kumar was leading a procession and supported seditious slogans raised on campus during the event held to mark the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Police also charged JNU students Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, and others in the case.
The accused have been charged with offences under IPC sections 124A (sedition), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 465 (punishment for forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 143 (punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly), 149 (being a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (punishment for rioting) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
IPC Section 124-A (sedition) requires prior sanction from a competent authority and in case sanction is not given, the court can raise objections after looking at the contents of the chargesheet.