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Six-month interim bail granted to JNU students Umar, Anirban

Umar Khalid

New Delhi : JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, facing sedition charge for allegedly raising anti-India slogans at the university campus last month, were today granted interim bail for six months by a Delhi court on ground of parity with Kanhaiya Kumar.

The court observed that the “role attributed” to JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar does not appear to be different from the allegations levelled against these two accused.

Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh granted the relief to the duo on furnishing of a personal bond in the sum of Rs 25,000 with one surety of the like amount which was complied with by them and they were ordered to be released till September 19.

Sangeeta Das Gupta and Rajat Dutta, two teachers at JNU’s Centre for Historical Studies, stood sureties for Anirban and Umar respectively.

While dealing with the bail applications, the court said “although the allegations levelled against Umar and Anirban are per se serious in nature but as claimed by the police themselves, the video footage of the incident has been sent to the forensic sciences laboratory. Its analysis and final report will certainly take time.”

“When all the aforesaid circumstances are weighed together and keeping in view that no previous criminal record of any nature whatsoever has been alleged and the fact that nothing has been brought on record which could indicate that they are likely to abscond from the jurisdiction of the court, then 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…,” the judge said.

The court also directed Umar and Anirban not to leave Delhi without its permission during the period of interim bail and to make themselves available before the investigating officer as and when required for the purpose of the probe.

In its 12-page order, the court said, “At the outset, it is to be kept in mind that co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar has been granted bail by the High Court”.

The court noted that keeping in view the allegations against the accused, the “question arises as to whether the present accused can claim any parity with co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar who has been granted bail.”

Referring to the status report filed by Delhi Police before the high court while opposing Kanhaiya’s bail plea, the judge said it was “apparent that the case set up by the police qua co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar was also of organising as well as participating in the said event”.

“The allegations qua the present accused (Umar and Anirban) are similar to the allegations made with respect to Kanhaiya in the status report submitted before the high court during consideration of his bail application,” the court said.

On the submission advanced by the police that there were statements of witnesses to the alleged incident, the court said, “having gone through the statements of Sourabh Kumar Sharma, Sandeep Kumar and Akhilesh Pathak, it does not appear that the role attributed to Kanhaiya Kumar in the statements of these witnesses is any different to the allegations made against the present accused/applicants.”

It said that both Umar and Anirban are “highly educated persons” having graduated from premier colleges of Delhi University, completing their MA and M.Phil from JNU and they are currently pursuing PhD from the university.

“They have been residing in JNU for the past 5-6 years. Their credentials and family backgrounds as stated in their bail applications have not been contested by the state.

“No submission has been made to the effect that both the applicants have been involved previously in any criminal case. No record has been placed by the state regarding any such past conduct of both these persons,” it noted.

Discussing the severity of punishment in event of conviction under section 124A (sedition) of the IPC, under which both the accused have been arrested along with other provisions of the IPC, the court said it prescribes three kinds of punishment which may extend upto life term.

“It is clear that the law itself provides for a wide spectrum of nature and quantum of punishment which can be imposed upon an accused in case of conviction for the said offence. However, I do not wish to delve further in this regard at this stage of the matter,” it said.

While seeking bail on the ground of parity, the counsel for the accused had said, “Their (Umar and Anirban) co-accused Kanhaiya 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.”

He had also said that the case did not attract sedition charges as there was no violence prior to or after the incident.

The police opposed the bail applications saying the case against Kanhaiya was “very much different” from that of Umar and Anirban as the JNUSU President was not the organiser of the event and there were 10 independent witnesses including security guards, JNU staff and students who had confirmed that “anti-Indian slogans were raised” at the programme.

“The slogans attempted to incite the mob. Umar and Anirban led the crowd which shouted anti-India slogans. The police has also recovered two cellphones which established that anti-India slogans were raised by Umar and Anirban during the event,” the prosecution had alleged.

It had also claimed that posters used for the event were recovered from the emails of these two accused which showed them to be the main organisers of the event which took place even after permission was withdrawn by the JNU administration.

Umar and Anirban, who had surrendered to the police on the intervening night of February 23-24 after which they wer arrested, had moved the bail pleas on March 15 on the ground of parity with Kanhaiya who was granted six-month interim bail by the high court on March 2.

The police had arrested Umar and Anirban for allegedly organising the controversial event at JNU on February 9.

The duo had returned to the JNU campus on February 21 after going missing since February 12.

Delhi Police had issued a look-out notice on February 20 against Umar, Anirban and three other students — Rama Naga, Ashutosh Kumar and Anant Prakash.

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