A Delhi court granted on Friday interim bail for six months to Jawaharlal Nehru University students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, who are facing sedition charges for allegedly shouting “anti-national” slogans, agencies report. Additional sessions judge Reeteesh Singh directed the students to file a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each and a surety of equal amount.
Both men were told they could not leave the city without court’s permission. The students’ lawyers have moved to file bail bonds and surety papers. After this, a court direction would be sent to Tihar Jail authorities to secure their release and the students will likely walk out of jail by Friday night.
The order that generated loud cheers at JNU came two weeks after fellow JNU student and sedition accused Kanhaiya Kumar was granted bail under similar terms. Khalid and Bhattacharya had moved their bail application on the grounds of parity.
The three students were present at a February 9 event commemorating 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Police registered an FIR against unknown persons based on video footage of the event.
The students are at the centre of a nationwide debate on free speech with Kumar emerging as a leading critic of the government through his widely-circulated public speeches. But at a recent rally, he was criticised for barely mentioning Khalid and Bhattacharya. Police said that Khalid and Bhattacharya’s involvement in the rally was deeper than that of Kumar’s. They were the organisers, prosecution said.
Khalid’s lawyer Jawahar Raja and Bhattacharya’s lawyer Tradeep Pais argued that even the videos of the alleged anti-national sloganeering was in dispute at the present stage. “If there is a strong disagreement, going almost to hatred, …divergence between sections that think these students are anti-national, and the students who think they have nothing wrong, this is a difference of opinion and not a question of criminal law,” said Pais.
Police, however, said the men attempted to incite disaffection against the nation, which amounted to sedition.