The Karnataka High Court has observed that no prima facie case of sedition was made out against the three students from Jammu and Kashmir, who were arrested in Hubballi over allegations of raising slogans in support of Pakistan in February.
In the observation, Justice G Narender said, "prima facie, the complaint does not disclose any material which could be considered as an ingredient constituting the offence as against the petitioners.‚ÄĚ The judge also stated that the prosecutors should have looked at the 'larger picture' and at the "attempts of the central government to ensure integration of that class of people (Kashmiris) into the mainstream.‚ÄĚ
Despite making these observations, Justice G Narendar is yet to accept the bail plea of the three students and has listed the case for hearing next on April 24, giving time for the state government to respond.
On February 15, three undergraduate students of KLE Institute of Technology were arrested in their college campus on charges of sedition, for allegedly circulating a video of themselves chanting ‚Äėpro-Pakistan slogans‚Äô in their hostel rooms on the anniversary of the Pulwama attack.
The students were charged under sections 153 A, 153 B and 505 (hate speech) of the Indian Penal Code as well as Section 124A (sedition) for the video.
Their plea for bail was rejected on March 9 by a Hubballi court, which was then challenged in the High Court. The High Court however took note of the fact that the students were studying in Hubballi through a scholarship of the central government.
"That the very fact that the accused have been sponsored on a scholarship by the central government, would demonstrate the fact that they are all people with roots and their background is vetted by none else than the Union government. Merely on account of a perception by a group construing the alleged to be of an offensive nature, it ought not to have negated the efforts being made by the Union government," noted Justice G Narender.
The judge further noted that the principal of the institute should have made an effort to counsel the students.
The sedition case against the Kashmiri students grabbed national headlines after the executive committee of the Hubballi Bar Association passed a resolution stating none of its members would file a vakalath for the students. Students and lawyers representing them were heckled in court, prompting the High Court to intervene and allow the bail application to be filed.
There have been a slew of sedition cases filed in Karnataka ever since the protests against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) intensified in the country. A case of sedition that was filed against the management of a school in Bidar district for a play was dismissed by the district court. Another case of sedition filed against activist Amulya Leona is yet to be listed by the sessions court.