A week after three students from Jammu and Kashmir, who were arrested on charges of sedition in Hubballi in Karnataka, were released on bail, the investigating officer in the case was suspended for a delay in filing the chargesheet against them.
Jackson Dâ€™Souza, the police inspector of Hubballi Rural police station, was suspended on Thursday, just days after the three students were released on bail. He cited the lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak for the failure to file a chargesheet in the case.
Inspector-General of Police (Northern Range) Raghavendra Suhas issued the suspension orders after an enquiry was conducted probing the failure to file a chargesheet in the case.
The lawyers representing the student filed a bail petition in a magistrate court in Hubballi on June 1 but the chargesheet in the case was filed only on June 4. The lawyers stated that there is a stipulated time period in which the chargesheet has to be filed (60-90 days), and on the 91st day, the accused is entitled to bail.
The students were released on June 6, more than three months after their arrest.
The suspension of the investigating officer in the case also comes a day after Amulya Leona, a Bengaluru-based student was granted bail in Bengaluru under similar circumstances. She was charged with sedition in March for shouting â€˜Pakistan Zindabadâ€™ during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest.
The students from Jammu and Kashmir â€“ Talib Majeed, Basit Asif Sofi and Amir Mohiuddin Wahi â€“ studying in Hubballiâ€™s KLE Institute of Technology were arrested in February after a video of them allegedly speaking in favour of Pakistan was shared widely.
The video showed the three students shouting "Azaadi", "Pakistan" and "Zindabad" while a song played in the background. The song was purportedly used by the Pakistan military's media wing.
The students were arrested and charged under section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.They were briefly released after the execution of a personal bond under section 169 of the CrPC (Release of accused when evidence deficient) but after protests by right-wing activists of the the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Bajrang Dal, they were re-arrested by the police.
Their time in custody was fraught with tension after the Hubballi Bar Association passed a resolution in February that its members would not represent the students following which the Karnataka High Court reprimanded the Hubballi Bar Association and stated that its resolution went against the principles of natural justice and the rights of the accused of obtaining a defence.
Despite this, lawyers representing the students were heckled when they arrived in the Principal District Session Court in Dharwad to file the bail petition. Their bail petition was transferred to the Fifth Additional District and Sessions Court in Hubballi and it was rejected on March 9.
But the students found some respite when the Karnataka High Court observed that no prima facie case of sedition was made out against them on April 20. Despite the courtâ€™s observation, their bail plea was not accepted and the students remained in jail till their release last week.
Alongside the sedition cases against Amulya Leona and the students from Jammu and Kashmir, another sedition case was filed against the mother of a 11-year-old student and a teacher at a school in Bidar over a play staged by primary section students in January. The mother and teacher were released after spending two weeks in jail while the district and sessions court in Bidar ruled that the contents of the play did not prima facie amount to sedition.