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Regular-article-logo Saturday, 18 May 2024

Delhi govt guns for its top law bureaucrat in JNU sedition case

Delhi police had sought to file a sedition chargesheet without getting the sanction of the state or Union home ministry

Pheroze L. Vincent New Delhi Published 24.01.19, 09:48 PM
Kanhaiya Kumar is among the 10 suspects accused of chanting slogans against Indian rule in Kashmir at a JNU event, or of facilitating the event, held in February 2016 to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru.

Kanhaiya Kumar is among the 10 suspects accused of chanting slogans against Indian rule in Kashmir at a JNU event, or of facilitating the event, held in February 2016 to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru.

The Delhi government has sent a showcause notice to its principal secretary (law) A.K. Mendiratta for giving a legal opinion on the sanction for prosecuting 10 people, including former JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, for alleged sedition.

Delhi police, who report to the Centre, had filed a 1,200-page chargesheet in the case last week, three years after they had filed an FIR and arrested the three — who are now out on bail — accusing them of raising seditious slogans.

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But a Delhi court had refused to admit the chargesheet without the mandatory sanction for prosecution that is required in sedition cases from the state home department or the Union home ministry.

The police request for sanction to Delhi’s home department — submitted two hours before the chargesheet was filed on January 14 — is yet to be granted.

Data on the file monitoring system, shared by government sources, show the file had been sent to the law department for opinion on January 17.

In a showcause notice to Mendiratta on Monday, Delhi’s law minister, Kailash Gahlot, accused him of violating the Transaction of Business Rules by giving his opinion without the minister’s views.

The notice says: “This is not only insubordination but appears to have been done intentionally so that the views of Minister (Law) are not recorded on the file.”

Government spokespersons declined to comment on Mendiratta’s reply. The law secretary did not respond to calls and a message.

The 10 suspects are accused of chanting slogans against Indian rule in Kashmir at a JNU event, or of facilitating the event, held in February 2016 to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged after being convicted in the December 2001 Parliament attack case.Sources said Mendiratta’s opinion went against that of the government, whose magisterial probe had found no evidence of the three raising seditious slogans, and that the video evidence had been doctored and that JNU guards had given false testimonies.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “I don’t know if Kanhaiya has committed treason or not, the law department is examining this. Modi has stopped schools for Delhi’s children, stopped hospitals, stopped CCTV cameras, stopped Mohalla Clinics, and tried to completely stop Delhi functioning — is this not treason?”

The AAP government has been at loggerheads with Delhi’s lieutenant-governor, the Centre’s representative, over several projects.

A source close to Kejriwal said: “The law does not specify any time limit for grant of sanction… for prosecution for charges under the penal code’s Chapter VI (that deals with sedition). The home department may seek opinions of the directorate of prosecution and the state’s standing counsel. We are not bound by Mendiratta’s opinion, or only that of the law department.”

Special commissioner of police M.M. Oberoi declined to comment on whether the police were seeking sanction from the Union ministry of home affairs.

“We will approach the appropriate sanctioning authority,” he said.

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