Sloganeering by students at a city college in February this year was not for an “uprising”, a Delhi court said today while asking a lawyer not to escalate the controversy surrounding a clash between student groups. “Let us not escalate the ‘vivaad’ (controversy). It was not for any uprising,” Metropolitan Magistrate Abhilash Malhotra said after advocate Vivek Garg argued that the police was delaying the probe despite its report confirming the presence of a large number of students who, he alleged, were raising anti-national slogans. The court also said it would have to see whether the incident related to freedom of expression.
The court was hearing Garg’s plea seeking a separate FIR into the alleged anti-national slogan-shouting by members of the All India Students’ Association (AISA) and the Students Federation of India (SFI) at the Ramjas College in Delhi Unversity on February 21 this year. Commencing his arguments on sedition, the lawyer today claimed in the court that the offence was made out as hundreds of participants came under the leadership of teachers and shouted slogans “Kashmir maange azaadi, Bastar maange azaadi”. The court, however, said “we have to see if this was a protest for freedom of expression. We need to consider what was the direct consequence leading to this situation. You are over-simplifying the argument.”
It also rejected the argument of the lawyer that it was a lapse on the part of the police and it was not investigating the matter. “We cannot say that delay by police was unnecessary as investigation in such cases takes time,” the court said. Garg claimed that the students raised slogans not against any government but the nation. “It threatens the sovereignty and integrity of the country. After the incident, terrorist groups got motivated and it led to unrest in Kashmir,” the lawyer argued. When he asked the investigating officer whether the slogans were raised or not, the court cautioned him that “this is not cross-examination.” “It was an alleged incident. Why do you (Garg) need confirmation of the incident from the investigating officer. This is not cross-examination,” the magistrate said.
Garg then referred to the action taken report of the police and said 100 students of the SFI, with several from JNU and various colleges including Ramjas, raised slogans after the cancellation of the literary festival. The court posted the matter for further arguments on October 7. On the last date of hearing, the court had warned Garg against mixing this incident with the JNU case in which sedition charge were slapped against some students. The JNU incident of February 2016 had hogged the limelight after the arrest of its student leaders, including then JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, while the Ramjas college case involved the raising of slogans and a clash between the students owing allegiance to the ABVP and Left organisations AISA and SFI.
On February 21, members of RSS student wing ABVP had gathered outside the college and shouted slogans in protest against a seminar for which JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were invited. The ABVP members allegedly pelted stones, vandalised the venue and disrupted the seminar. The next day violent clashes had erupted between the Left and the ABVP students leaving several of them and three teachers injured. The court’s remarks today were aimed at advocate Vivek Garg, who had raised the Ramjas college incident and sought a direction to the police to supply him a copy of the charge sheet filed in the JNU matter.
The court had on August 29 observed that sedition charges cannot be pressed on the basis of an unauthenticated and unreliable video, after it was shown a footage of alleged “anti-national” sloganeering held on February 21 this year at the Ramjas College here. The magistrate had said that the authenticity of the video was to be ascertained by the police. The plea, which sought registration of an FIR for alleged offences of sedition, criminal conspiracy, waging war against the State and defamation under the IPC, also demanded action against Delhi Police officials for not lodging the complaint.
The police had on August 3 submitted an action taken report in the matter and said it was examining students and teachers to identify the culprits involved in the Ramjas College clashes that broke out between the ABVP and Left- affiliated student bodies. In the report, the police had said they had lodged an FIR at the Maurice Nagar police station on February 22 for the alleged offences or rioting and obstruction, causing hurt and assault to deter public servant from discharging duty.
However, the complaint had alleged that “anti-national slogans/activities were being carried out by leaders/students of AISA/SFI in Ramjas College, shamelessly and openly which supported India’s enemy Pakistan. The criminal acts of accused were also boosting the morale of terrorists against our country.”