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JNU row: All you need to know about Kanhaiya’s sedition charge

Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been courting trouble since its students hosted an event in which anti-national slogans were allegedly chanted. The JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar has been charged with sedition, drawing mixed reactions from political parties.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2016 21:13 IST
Police gather at Patiala Court where student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar was presented for a hearing in New Delhi.
Police gather at Patiala Court where student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar was presented for a hearing in New Delhi.(AFP)

Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been courting trouble since its students hosted an event in which anti-national slogans were allegedly chanted. The JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar has been charged with sedition, drawing mixed reactions from political parties.

What really happened?

Who was Afzal Guru?

Mohammad Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was convicted and hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail in 2013 for his role in the 2001 attack on Parliament by members of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar militant groups.

The 2001 attack killed 14 people - five terrorists, six Delhi policemen, two Parliament Security Service personnel and a gardener – which further dented the strained relationship between India and Pakistan.

Also Read | Another scuffle at Patiala House: Lawyers protest, beat up journo
JNU Turmoil: Full Coverage

What is the law on sedition? Is it applicable to this case?

Sedition, in India, is covered by Section 124A of the IPC.

It reads, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite dissatisfaction towards the Government established by law in [India], shall be punished with [imprisonment for life] to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

However, the Supreme Court has also ruled that, “…words and speech can be criminalised and punished only in situations where it is being used to incite mobs or crowds to violent action.

Mere words and phrases by themselves, no matter how distasteful, do not amount to a criminal offence unless this condition is met,” the top court ruled, holding the restrictions are within the ambit of permissible legislative interference and in public interest.

Legal experts warn Delhi Police may have a tough time proving sedition charges against Kumar.

One of the students Umar has been charged with having links to Jaish-e-Mohammed. What is going on with that?

Umar Khalid, a JNU student, is a member of the ‘Democratic Students Union’ (DSU) and one of the organisers of February 9 Afzal Guru programme. He has been absconding since the event along with some other DSU members and are wanted by Delhi Police.

Some news channels recently carried a report claiming Khalid had been to Pakistan and received help from extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammed to organise protests in Delhi.

However, the Centre has denied that the Intelligence Bureau had issued any such report.

Pics: Stones thrown, slogans shouted at Kanhaiya’s bail hearing

What effect will this have on the budget session?

The session, which is to begin on February 23, is likely to be oveshadowed by the JNU controversy and concerns regarding growing intolerance in the country.

During a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ensuring the smooth running of Parliament, the Opposition indicated that it would raise issues including the JNU row, Arunachal crisis, the suicide of a Dalit scholar in Hyderabad and farmer related problems in the session.

Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the government was open to discussion on all the issues.

Left parties questioned the filing of sedition case against Kumar and said they want the government to rein in BJP leaders and people holding constitutional posts who are “vitiating” the atmosphere in the country.