The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has distanced itself from the decision to grant sanction to Delhi Police to charge 18 people, accused in Northeast Delhi riots case, for sedition and criminal conspiracy. These include former JNU students Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Pinjra Tod, activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, and Ishrat Jahan.
A senior Delhi government official said the decision has nothing to do with the elected government. “The elected government has no role to play in this,” he told Outlook.
The Delhi government’s letter, stating that the granting of the prosecution sanction has been approved by lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, said the police’s charge-sheet has been carefully vetted, and it appears “prima facie the accused persons have committed the acts of sedition and criminal conspiracy.”
Sources in Arvind Kejriwal-led government claimed this is a purely procedural matter. “The Law department has given its legal opinion after due diligence to the Home department of Delhi government. It is up to the judiciary to decide on the merits of such cases, and not for the elected governments,” the official explains.
A court can take cognisance of the charges filed by the police and start the trial only after the state government gives the prosecution sanction. The police had sent a request to Delhi government for the prosecution sanction under sedition charges in mid- September. The government had earlier given police prosecution sanction to charge the accused persons only under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The sanction for sedition was still awaited.
The police had informed the court on November 22 – when the accused were charged for their alleged role in the case – that the sanction to prosecute them for sedition and other sections was still under consideration.
This is the second case in which Umar Khalid will be tried for sedition. He, along with former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, was booked under a sedition charge for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans in the 2016 JNU case. The Delhi government official said even during the JNU sedition case, this was their exact position. “Delhi government has not stopped prosecution in any case in the last five years, including those pertaining to AAP MLAs and party leaders,” the official added.