Slogans raised by JNU students cannot be claimed to be protected as fundamental rights, says HC

Slogans raised by JNU students cannot be claimed to be protected as fundamental rights, says HCKanhaiya Kumar (Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • While the JNUSU president was given bail by the Delhi High Court, the contents of the order detail several conditions.

    The High Court judgement is very much a blow to all those who were defending the controversial events in JNU as a matter of free speech.

    The judgment also mentioned the issue of respect for the Indian troops.

For students demanding the release of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, the conditional bail given by the Delhi High Court can be considered a minor victory. The JNU students’ movement leadership has announced a ‘victory march’ followed by a welcome march for their president.

However, one needs to read out the contents of the order delivered by Justice Pratibha Rani to understand the complete message of the temporary freedom. The interim conditional bail for six months has been provided with several conditions, a host of directives to the JNU faculty in guiding its students as well as some pertinent observations on how the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ is put to use.

One of the directives was:

The faculty of JNU has to play its role in guiding them to the right path so that they can contribute to the growth of the nation and achieve the object and vision for which the JNU was established.

The judgement starts off with the lyrics of the popular song ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’, from Manoj Kumar’s Upkar which she credited with the characteristics that represent love for the motherland:

Rang hara Hari Singh Nalve se, Rang laal hai Lal Bahadur se, Rang bana basanti Bhagat Singh, Rang aman ka veer Jawahar se. Mere Desh ki Dharti sona ugle Ugle here moti mere desh ki dharti

An important point in the judgement was the admission from Kapil Sibal, who is representing Kanhaiya Kumar, that his client was at the spot where the controversial slogans were shouted.

Regarding the issue raised by many supporters of Kumar that the videos showing Kumar at the event were doctored, the judgment states-

It is not disputed by the State at this stage that in the footage of video recording of the incident, the petitioner has not been seen raising anti-national slogans but learned ASG for the State has referred to the statement of various witnesses recorded under Section 161 CrPC who have stated about the presence as well as active participation of the petitioner in that incident.

The High Court judgement is very much a blow to all those who were defending the controversial events in JNU as a matter of free speech protected under fundamental rights. The judgment states-

The thoughts reflected in the slogans raised by some of the students of JNU who organized and participated in that programme cannot be claimed to be protected as fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. I consider this as a kind of infection from which such students are suffering which needs to be controlled/cured before it becomes an epidemic.

Another sensitive issue the judgment mentioned was the issue of respect for the troops. Here it is important to remember that the organisers of the event in JNU went to the extent of asking for the removal of Indian troops from Jammu and Kashmir.

Justice Rani noted:

i. As President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, the petitioner was expected to be responsible and accountable for any anti-national event organised in the campus… it has to be kept in mind by all concerned that they are enjoying this freedom only because our borders are guarded by our armed and paramilitary force…

ii. Suffice it to note that such persons enjoy the freedom to raise such slogans in the comfort of the university campus, without realising that they are in this safe environment because our forces are there at the battlefield situated at the highest altitude of the world where even the oxygen is so scarce that those who shout anti-national slogans holding posters of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat close to their chest honouring their martyrdom, may not be even able to withstand those conditions for even an hour.

iii. The kind of slogans raised may have demoralising effect on the family of those martyrs who returned home in a coffin draped in the Tricolour…

Keeping Kumar’s family background in mind, the court stated:

Some concession to the petitioner on monetary aspect for purpose of furnishing the bond, he can be required to furnish an undertaking to the effect that he will not participate actively or passively in any activity which may be termed as anti-national. Apart from that, as president of JNU Students’ Union, he will make all efforts within his power to control anti-national activities in the campus.

The court reminded Kumar that he:

...belongs to an intellectual class pursuing PhD from International School of Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, which is considered as hub of intellectuals. He may have any political affiliation or ideology. He has every right to pursue that but it can be only within the framework of our Constitution…

Now it remains to be seen if the court judgement is labelled as ultra-nationalist by the passionate supporters of the students.

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