End crackdown on freedom of expression: Amnesty

Bangalore, Feb 17 (IANS) Amnesty International India on Wednesday urged Delhi Police to immediately release JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and former Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani and drop sedition charges against them.

The police must also investigate multiple attacks by lawyers against journalists and others at the Patiala House Court in the national capital, it said in a statement.

“From arresting a student under a colonial-era law to failing to prevent attacks inside courts, Delhi Police has shown a casual disregard for constitutionally guaranteed rights in recent days,” said Amnesty.

“This apparent disdain for the right to freedom of expression is both misguided and dangerous.”

Delhi Police, which reports to the central home ministry, arrested Kanhaiya Kumar on February 12 for allegedly raising ‘anti-national’ slogans in the Jawaharlal Nehru University three days earlier.

On February 16, the police arrested Geelani for organising an event where ‘anti-India’ slogans were allegedly raised.

Both were arrested under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which makes the offence of sedition punishable with life imprisonment. A Delhi court has remanded Geelani in police custody until February 19 while Kanhaiya Kumar has been sent to judicial custody till March 2.

“Indian courts have ruled that expression can be restricted on grounds of public order only when it involves incitement to imminent violence or disorder. By branding people ‘anti-national’ merely for expressing opposing views, the central government and Delhi Police are displaying an appalling intolerance for dissent,” said Amnesty.

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