JNU sedition row: Kanhaiya Kumar and others charge sheeted after 3 years

Nearly three years after an FIR was filed against them for allegedly raising anti-national slogans at an event, the Delhi Police, on Monday (January 14), filed its charge sheet against former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid, Anirban Bhattacharya and some 30 others, slapping charges of sedition against them.

The event, in connection with which the FIR was filed, had been organized in the JNU campus on February 9, 2016, apparently to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The FIR states that “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised at the event by Kumar and others. The police claims it has relied on “forensic evidence, testimonies of other students, videos from the event and news reports about it,” to arrive at the conclusion that sedition charges can be invoked against the accused. The police said that it had evidence to proceed against the accused, which also included seven students from Jammu and Kashmir. The police has accused them of organising the event against the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was hanged in connection with the Parliament attack. They alleged that Kumar had incited and was part of the mob that shouted anti India slogans. The police said there is no direct evidence against 36 other accused, including Communist Party of India leader D Raja’s daughter Aprajita, but they can be summoned for questioning.

The charge sheet has been filed under IPC section 124A (sedition), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 465 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine, forged document), 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 149 (unlawful assembly with common object), 147(rioting), & 120B (criminal conspiracy).

The others charged in the 12,000 page charge sheet are Aquib Hussain, Mujeeb Hussain, Muneeb Hussain, Umar Gul, Rayeea Rassol, Bashir Bhat and Basharat. The 10 accused have been charge sheeted on the basis of electronic evidence, including CCTV footage and mobile footage, and documentary evidence, which include statements of students and security guards.

In the charge sheet, police claimed that all the footage were genuine and the presence of students belonging to Kashmir was also established through mobile clips and videos. It claimed that the Kashmiri students had masks on during the procession, but did not cover their faces while returning. This showed their involvement, police said. The final report by the police claimed that no permission was granted to organise the event and every member was a part of an unlawful assembly. When informed about the lack of permission to hold the event, the accused persons started arguing and fighting, it said.

A case was registered on February 11, 2016 under sections 124A and 120B of the IPC against unidentified persons at the Vasant Kunj (North) police station, following complaints from Bharatiya Janata Party MP Maheish Girri and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The event in 2016 had taken place despite the university administration cancelling the permission, following a complaint from the ABVP, which had termed it as “anti-national”.

Kumar was the president of the JNU Students’ Union when the FIR was filed. He, along with Khalid and Bhattacharya, was also arrested in connection with the case when the FIR was first filed but all three were later let out on bail. Protests had also erupted across educational campuses in the country against the persecution of Kumar and his fellow students. The filing of the charge sheet comes months before the Lok Sabha poll.

Kumar has already declared his willingness to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from a constituency in Bihar as an independent candidate supported by the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress party and other smaller political outfits in Bihar. It is being speculated that Rashid too could mark her electoral debut from a constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, either in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls or the assembly elections in the state that is currently under President’s Rule and will go to the hustings in April-May.

On Monday, while Kumar said he had no information on whether the charge sheet had been filed or not, he told reporters: “all of these, starting from the Citizenship Amendment Bill to the 10 percent quota act to now this charge, are being brought at the same time to coincide with the election. Why was so much time taken to file a charge sheet for sedition? I can see a complete lack of seriousness on the part of the Narendra Modi-government regarding everything.” Kumar, who faced allegations that he had incited the mob to shout anti-India slogans, said the charge sheet was a “diversionary ploy by the Modi government to hide its all-round failures”.

“The charge sheet is politically motivated. However, we want the charges to be framed and a speedy trial in the case so that the truth comes out. We also want to see the videos that have been placed on record as evidence by the police,” he said.

Taking a swipe at Modi and the Delhi Police, which comes under Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Kumar said: “If the news is true that a charge sheet has been filed, I would like to thank police and Modi Ji. The filing of charge sheet after 3 years, ahead of elections clearly shows it to be politically motivated. I trust the judiciary of my country.”

Khalid, who addressed a student gathering at St. Joseph’s College in Bengaluru on the “role of youth in safeguarding the Constitution”, said, “We reject the allegations. The move to file the charge sheet three years after the alleged incident is an attempt to divert the attention (of the people) right before (parliamentary) elections. We will fight it out in court.”

“We congratulate the Delhi Police, the home ministry and the government for waking up from their deep slumber three years after 9 Feb 2016, and barely three months before the general elections 2019 and filing a charge sheet against us,” Khalid and Bhattacharya said in a joint statement.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram Monday dubbed the charges against former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and others in the JNU sedition case as “absurd” while his party said it hoped that the legal process will be carried out rightfully. P Chidambaram said if it took three years for the government to make out the charge of sedition, it “exposes the motive of the government”. P Chidambaram said the sedition charges against Kanhaiya Kumar are “absurd” He also demanded a debate on whether a provision like Section 124A (sedition) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) has a place in the laws of a democratic republic. “The charge of sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar and others is absurd. If it takes three years and 1,200 pages to make out a charge of sedition (based on a public speech), that alone exposes the motive of the government,” the former home minister said in a series of tweets. “How many in the investigating team have read and understood section 124A of the IPC and the case law on the Section. There must be a serious debate if a provision like section 124A has a place in the laws of a democratic republic,” Mr Chidambaram said.

As per news agency ANI, the Delhi Police has filed a voluminous 1200 page chargesheet slapping charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 124A 323, 465, 471,143, 149, 147, 120B, against the former students. The Patiala House Court, where the chargesheet has been filed, is expected to hear the case on Tuesday (January 15).

Judge Anand put the charge sheet up for consideration before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on Tuesday.

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