JNU Row: Delhi HC asks Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya to surrender, will continue hearing plea on security tomorrow

JNU Row: Delhi HC asks Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya to surrender, will continue hearing plea on security tomorrow

Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim protection from arrest to JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, asking them to surrender and follow the due process of law.

“You can't use your whim and fancy. You have to follow the procedure, surrender or arrest. You have to be produced before a magistrate and he will decide whether you go into police custody or jail,” Justice Pratibha Rani was quoted as saying.

The Court asked the students to write down a name and place for their surrender, as well as mention the name of the lawyers who would assist them during the surrender process. The Delhi Police however raised a strong objection to Mr. Khalid’s suggestion that they be allowed to surrender at an undisclosed location and time. The DCP and the petitioners’ lawyers were then called to the Judge’s chambers for a closed hearing.

Earlier today, a Bench comprising Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice R.K. Gauba had agreed to hear the two students’ plea, seeking security before surrendering on Court orders. They had demanded an urgent hearing, contending that there existed a threat to their lives.

Representing JNU students, Advocate Kamini Jaiswal reportedly contended before the Court that the students had to file the surrender application due to “exceptional circumstances” having been created. They referred to last week’s attack on JNU teachers and students, media personnel, and Mr. Kumar inside the premises of the Patiala House Courts by lawyers. They claimed that they feared a repetition of the incident, in case they were taken to the Patiala House Court. The hearing will continue tomorrow, along with JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail application.

Five students have been accused of sedition in connection with an event organized in JNU against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The students returned to the University on Sunday night, after they had gone missing from the campus since February 12 after JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested in the sedition case. While Umar and Anirban have sought protection, the three others have approached the Court seeking anticipatory bail.

The High Court also adjourned Mr. Kumar’s bail application for tomorrow, with Justice Pratibha Rani issuing a notice to Delhi Police, asking it to file a status report on the probe by Wednesday morning. As reported by Indian Express, it was contended by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that since it was a pre-chargesheet bail application, the police should be allowed to file the status report in a sealed cover. The bench, however, rejected the request, commenting that, “It’s just a bail application and the petitioners have the right to know.” The Court also directed a copy of the status report to be given to Mr. Kumar’s counsel, Rebecca John.

The hearing also saw a confusion as to the representative of Delhi Police, as ASGs Tushar Mehta and Sanjay Jain claimed that Mr. Mehta and Advocate Shailendra Babbar had been appointed as Special Public Prosecutors in the case by Lt. Governor; while Rahul Mehra said that he should be allowed to represent Delhi police in Mr. Kumar’s bail plea. The Bench however refused to entertain the confusion and said that it would not hear the arguments without the status report. You may read the LiveLaw article here.

With regard to the bail application, Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi has taken a u-turn from his earlier stand of not opposing the application in the High Court, saying that it was due to “change in circumstances”. Mr. Bassi had earlier asserted that a young man like Mr. Kumar should be given another chance. In its latest report, Delhi Police has cited evidence collected by the varsity’s internal inquiry committee proving that unconstitutional slogans were indeed raised by the students. Delhi Police has also decided to oppose Mr. Kumar’s bail application, contending that he can influence witnesses and impact police investigation.

Meanwhile, the Court dismissed a petition filed by a law student, demanding immediate arrest of the accused students. The petition further demanded a direction to Delhi Police to enter JNU campus and arrest the accused students, and an action against the faculty members of the University for allegedly trying to “obstruct the process of administration of criminal justice system and assisting for violation of law of lands.”

The Court has however agreed to consider a contempt petition against three lawyers allegedly caught on camera boasting that they had beaten up Mr. Kumar in police lock-up for three hours at the Patiala House Court complex here.

“This allegation has been never made before us. This is a new allegation which has come up. You file an appropriate petition and we will consider it,” a bench comprising Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice A.M. Sapre was quoted as saying. The lawyers had admitted to their involvement in the incident through a sting operation aired by the media. You may read the LiveLaw article here.

In another petition, filed by Mr. N.D. Jayaprakash, a Social Worker and an Alumnus of JNU, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising submitted an NHRC report claiming that Mr. Kumar was being terrorized by the lawyers. She said there was a genuine threat perception to the accused and his security and safety needs to be ensured. The bench then said it will look into the matter after a proper application is filed.

You may read: Asking accused in JNU Sedition Case to prove innocence- Blatant error in law! By Namit Saxena

You may also read: Is Sedition Law Anti-Indian?: Legal Analysis By: Dr. Sophy K.J