Opposition leaders in Karnataka questioned the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state government on the rearrest of three Kashmiri engineering students facing sedition charges in Hubballi city of Dharwad district, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. The Karnataka Police had arrested the students of KLE Institute of Technology first on Saturday after the college filed a complaint about a video in which they allegedly said “Pakistan zindabad”. They were released on Sunday due to insufficient evidence, but rearrested on Monday.
Janata Dal (Secular) leader Basavaraj Horatti asked why the three were released in the first place. “Who ordered the police to release those accused of being anti-nationals without producing them in court?” he said in the Legislative Council on Tuesday. “The BJP needs to answer this.”
Congress’ Karnataka unit President Dinesh Gundu Rao said: “Those who raised ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans have been released on bail, and now they have been arrested again due to pressure from right-wing groups. Is this child’s play?’’ Rao’s party colleague and former Karnataka minister UT Khader said the BJP government in the state selectively slaps sedition cases against people. He claimed the students were initially released as they study in a college owned by the saffron party’s MP. Khader himself has been charged with sedition for his speech at an anti-Citizenship Act rally in Mangaluru.
However, state Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai clarified that the students were released after a bond was executed. He added that the state authorities has sought a police report in the matter, and action will be taken on the basis of that. Bommai said action will be taken against “all anti-nationals as per law”. The students were also presented in court, he said, adding, there was no question of releasing them.
On Sunday, the police had released the students after they executed a bond under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under Section 169 of the CrPc, an accused is let off when the investigating officer is of the view that there was no sufficient evidence to produce him before a court for remand. As part of the terms of their release, the students were made to sign a bond. In the bond, they have agreed to appear before the police whenever summoned. Two of them are in a first-year engineering course, and the third is a second-year student.
Meanwhile, college Principal Basavaraj Anami, who had lodged the complaint, has denied executing a bond that allowed the release of the Kashmiri students without them being presented in court. This is a requirement for cases that entails punishment of over seven years in jail.
“We did not want their lives to be spoilt on account of the case,” an unidentified police officer told The Indian Express. “We also did not have sufficient evidence initially. There were fears that the case could mar the college’s image since the complaint was also filed by the college authorities.”