A Delhi court on Friday granted interim bail of six months to JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, who were arrested on charges of sedition. The bail plea was opposed by the police on the grounds that the two were the main organisers of the Afzal Guru event, held on the varsity campus on 9 February.
The court took into consideration the absence of any previous criminal records of the duo while granting them bail. Additional sessions judge Reetesh Singh also ruled:
"Besides the ground of parity vis-a-vis release of Kanhaiya Kumar on bail, I deem it appropriate to release both the accused on interim bail for a period of six months subject to them furnishing a personal bond in the sum of Rs 25,000 with one surety of the like amount"
The duo, who have been lodged in jail since 23 February, sought bail on the ground of parity with JNU Student's Union President Kanhaiya Kumar. On Wednesday, additional sessions judge Reetesh Singh heard the arguments by Khalid and Bhattacharya - who said they should be given relief like Kanhaiya, considering that the probe did not call for them being placed in judicial custody.
This was opposed by the investigators who said that Khalid and Bhattacharya intended to create hatred against the established government - thereby attracting the sedition charge.
The police said the case against Kanhaiya "is very much different" from that of Umar and Anirban as the JNUSU President was not the organiser of the event. Police said that 10 independent witnesses - including security guards, JNU staff and students - confirmed that "anti-Indian slogans were raised" at the programme.
"The slogans attempted to incite the mob. These two persons, Umar and Anirban, led the crowd which shouted anti-Indian slogans. The police has also recovered two cellphones which established that anti-Indian slogans were raised by Khalid and Bhattacharya during the event," the prosecution said. The prosecution also said that posters used for the event were recovered from the emails of the two students - thereby proving that they were the main organisers of the event which took place even after permission was withdrawn by the JNU administration.
However, the counsel for both the accused said that there was no violence prior or later to the incident. Advocate Trideep Pais, who represented Bhattacharya, said there were a number of reports on the issue. Pais said that even the police had acknowledged the existence of several doctored videos of the 9 February event in the public domain. Pais also said that "even the report of JNU on the incident says that the slogans were raised by outsiders".
The advocate said that while the 9 February event could not be termed as unlawful assembly as no violence took place - despite the event being denied permission.
"My clients are already in the custody since 23 February after they voluntarily surrendered, including seven days' police custody. They were absent for few days before surrendering because there was serious threat to life," the counsel said. He also said that their absence had resulted in ex-parte orders passed by the committees set up by the JNU in this matter.
Identical arguments were made by Khalid's counsel Jawahar Rana. While seeking bail on the ground of parity, the counsel said, "Their co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar has already been granted bail and there were similar allegations against him as well. This case is not different from Kanhaiya's. Besides these three, seven persons were also named in the case but they are also free."
Advocate Yashpal, caught on camera attacking JNU students and media personnel in the Patiala House Court Complex on 15 and 17 February, was also present in the proceedings - which took place amid high security. The advocates, related to the case, were also taken out of the court in police escort.
- With PTI inputs