Two JNU students accused of sedition will spend at least two more days in jail after a Delhi court said on Wednesday it will decide on March 18 whether to give them bail or not.
The two students -- Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya – are among six students slapped with sedition charges following a February 9 event at the university, sparking a debate over nationalism and free speech.
The JNU students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, facing similar charges, was granted interim bail by the Delhi high court. Three others are yet to be arrested.
After hearing extensive arguments in the case, additional sessions judge Reeteesh Singh said he will give his decision the day after.
The advocates for Khalid and Bhattacharya argued that the two were being “singled out” while co-accused Kanhaiya Kumar was granted interim bail by the high court.
“If there is a strong disagreement, going almost to hatred, …divergence between sections that think these students are anti-national, and the students who think they have nothing wrong, this is a difference of opinion and not a question of criminal law,” said advocate Trideep Pais representing Bhattacharya.
The lawyers said the police had but one piece of evidence against their clients -- a pro- Afzal Guru poster with their names on it.
Police say a section of students had shouted anti-national slogans during the event to mark the anniversary of the hanging of Guru, convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack. He was executed in 2013.
The lawyers said even the videos of the alleged anti-national sloganeering was in dispute at the present stage.
The prosecution, however, argued that besides the poster -- which was allegedly prepared by Bhattacharya and approved by Khalid – there were ten eye-witnesses whom they were relying on in the sedition case against the students.
“I also have 10 witnesses including one student who has no affiliation with any political party,” the public prosecutor said. He also read out the statement by one Akhilesh Pathak, a PhD student at JNU.
The prosecutor argued that the young men had “attempted” to incite disaffection towards the nation by organising the pro-Afzal event.
“An attempt to incite disaffection meets the criteria of sedition. The slogans acted as incitement,” he added.
Advocate Jawahar Raja contested the argument on sedition saying that everyone can take offence to what someone says.
“Just because someone is protesting doesn’t mean you (State) stop them. The State has a positive obligation to protect my right to say it,” he added.