Kanhaiya Kumar gets bail. How will it affect #JNUcrackdown discourse
The suspense continued till late in the evening. But finally at 7, India's most closely watched university student, Kanhaiya Kumar, was granted an interim bail of six months by the Delhi High Court.
The court though has imposed several conditions on the bail. And it has put the responsibility of Kumar's liberty on the JNU's faculty.
Why has the HC made the JNU faculty and not the administration responsible for Kanhaiya Kumar?
The faculty will not only furnish the guarantee for Kanhaiya's bail bond, set at Rs 10,000, it must also monitor his activities on the campus and ensure he does not raise "anti-India" slogans.
Why the court has made the faculty and not the administration responsible for Kanhaiya isn't clear.
Interestingly, the Delhi police won't appeal against the bail in the Supreme Court.
"It is not a setback for the police. The court may have done a balancing act and imposed certain restrictions on him while granting him liberty. We will react after reading the entire order first," Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the police, said.
Kanhaiya is facing charges of sedition for allegedly raising "anti-India" slogans during an event organised on the JNU campus on 9 February.
His lawyers, including Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, had countered the police's allegations by saying that some outsiders and not Kanhaiya had raised the slogans. The students union leader was merely asking them to show their identity cards.
At the last hearing on 29 February, the court had reprimanded the police and questioning their understanding of sedition laws as well as their evidence against Kanhaiya.
It emerged later that at least two, and possibly three, of the seven videos of the protest for which Kanhaiya was arrested have been doctored, and "very special words" inserted in them. This was revealed by a forensic examination of the videos ordered by Delhi government and conducted by Truth Lab in Hyderabad.
The Delhi police had submitted some of these videos, including the more "seditious" one obtained from Zee News, to argue against Kanhaiya's bail. But almost immediately, questions were raised about their authenticity.
Indeed, much, if not all, of the "evidence" against Kanhaiya, whose bail plea the former Delhi police chief BS Bassi had first supported and later opposed, has turned out to be hot air.
According to The Indian Express, four of the 17 prosecution witnesses are members of the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS. In fact, ABVP leaders have confirmed that their members deposed against Kanhaiya.
India Today has also reported this finding but with an additional detail - that the Hyderabad lab has revealed the fake videos were distributed by one Shilpi Tiwari.
She is said to have worked as HRD Minister Smriti Irani's campaign manager in Amethi. Another document has surfaced about a special "discretionary appointment" of one Shilpi Tiwari as a consultant for the National Mission on Education run by Irani's ministry. The letter states that the ministry approved "relaxations" in Tiwari's qualifications to enable her to get the job.
After doubts were raised about the authenticity of the videos, the police's counsel in the high court admitted that there's no video footage that shows Kanhaiya raising anti-India slogans in the JNU.
Meanwhile, to celebrate Kanhaiya's release, the JNU Students Union has called for a "victory march" on the campus, from Sabarmati Dhaba till the administrative block. Earlier in the day, some 2,000 students had marched to the Parliament Street police station to show solidarity with Kanhaiya as well as Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid, their fellow students who too have been arrested for sedition.
Kanhaiya, according to some news reports, has "distanced himself from Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya", though in exactly what way isn't clear at this moment.
Still, the court's decision to grant bail to Kanhaiya could have a bearing on the state's similar cases against Umar and Anirban.
By granting bail to Kanhaiya, has the HC weakened the cases against Umar Khalid, Anriban Bhattacharya?