Difference of opinion delays government sanction in JNU case
The file on granting sanction to prosecute 10 people in the JNU sedition case has moved back and forth between the Delhi government’s home and law departments at least six times since January 14 over continuing differences on whether the approval of the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) is necessary in such cases.
In a string of communications on the file, which have been seen by HT, top officials of the two departments have repeatedly noted that the matter be placed before the “competent authority”/“sanctioning authority” for an “independent assessment”. They said that the authority they referred to was L-G Anil Baijal. The file has moved out of the home department and is with the law department.
Law minister Kailash Gahlot said the sanction will take “some more time”.”The file was put up before me by principal secretary (law) yesterday. The Home department has raised the issue as to who is the competent authority? We are in the process of examining the issue and this will take some time,” he said on Tuesday.
Once Gahlot’s views are noted, the file will go back to the home department.
The case relates to alleged anti-national slogans raised in February 2016 on JNU campus. Former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar and research scholars Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are among those charged with sedition by the Delhi Police.
Officers argued that section 196 of the CrPC, which deals with sanction for prosecuting offences against the State and for criminal conspiracy to commit such offences, falls under the L-G’s jurisdiction.
Responding to a similar note sent by additional chief secretary (home) Renu Sharma on March 11, Delhi home minister Satyendar Jain explained that the issue did not come under any reserved subject. Reserved subjects in Delhi are matters concerning land, law and order, police and services – on which the L-G has a direct control.
“CrPC as well as prosecution do not fall within the reserved subjects where GNCTD (Delhi government) does not have jurisdiction. This is covered by transferred subjects in which the L-G does not exercise direction and is bound by the aid and advice tendered to him,” read Jain’s note to Sharma, dated March 18.
“In view of the above, application of mind (regarding independent assessment of the charges) will have to be undertaken by the minister-in-charge and not by the L-G,” Jain observed while also asking Sharma to cite previous court cases for reference.
Sharma, after presenting a few court cases, referred the file again to the law department for its opinion on March 23. Repeated calls and messages to Sharma for a response went unanswered.
On March 26, the law department while putting up the file to law minister Kailash Gahlot said it may be “preposterous” at this stage to “assume” that there may be a difference of opinion between the cabinet and the L-G.
“Looking from another perspective, even in case the minister-in-charge holds the opinion that the L-G is bound by the views of the council of ministers for grant of sanction, the matter still needs to be placed for consideration of the competent authority, i.e, L-G in accordance with law,” said the department’s assistant legal advisor with approval from principal secretary (law).
The one aspect that the ministers and the bureaucrats agree on is that the government would take up the issue of lapses on the part of Delhi police separately.
A city court will hear the matter again on Wednesday.