The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted six-month interim bail to Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, but imposed restrictions on him. He was arrested for sedition.
The court held that Kanhaiya's presence at the spot on the day of incident when the alleged anti-national event was organised, "is not disputed".
Justice Pratibha Rani, however, said the thoughts reflected in the slogans raised by some of the students of the JNU, who organised 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," the court said.
"The feelings or the protest reflected in the slogans need introspection by the student community whose photographs are available on record holding posters carrying photographs of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt," the court said.
It said the faculty of the JNU also "has to play its role in guiding them to the right path".
The court ordered the bail after asking the JNUSU president to furnish a personal bond of Rs.10,000 with one surety.
The court said "he (Kanhaiya) 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," said the court.
Kanhaiya shall not leave the country without the permission of the court, it added.
In the 23-page order, Justice Rani said as a union president, Kanhaiya was "expected to be responsible and accountable for any anti-national event organised in the campus."
"Freedom of speech guaranteed to the citizens of this country under the Constitution of India has enough room for every citizen to follow his own ideology or political affiliation within the framework of our Constitution," said the court.
The court said "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 forces".
"Our forces are protecting our frontiers in the most difficult terrain in the world i.e. Siachen Glacier or Rann of Kutch," Justice Rani said.
"Suffice it to note that such persons enjoy the freedom to raise such slogans in the comfort of university campus but without realising that they are in this safe environment because our forces are there at the battle field situated at the highest altitude of the world where even the oxygen is so scarce that those who are shouting anti-national slogans holding posters of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt close to their chest honouring their martyrdom, may not be even able to withstand those conditions for an hour even," the court said.
The kind of slogans raised may have "demoralising effect" on the family of those martyrs who returned home in coffin draped in tricolor, Justice Rani stated in her order.
Saying that the kind of slogans raised by some of the students in JNU campus cannot be claimed to be protected as fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, the court termed it as "infection" from which such students are suffering and which needs to be cured before it becomes an epidemic.
"The petitioner belongs to an intellectual class pursuing Ph.d. ...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," the court said.
Saying that "India is a living example of unity in diversity", the court said the "freedom of expression enjoyed by every citizen can be subjected to reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2) of our Constitution".
Justice Rani began the order with lyrics of a patriotic song from film 'Upkaar' which, she said: "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 heere-moti mere desh ki dharti."
Security was beefed up inside and outside the court room for the case. The entry to the courtroom of Justice Rani was restricted to lawyers involved in the case and a few media persons.
The bail order triggered wild celebrations in JNU campus where hundreds of students, dominantly from Left groups, celebrated, raising slogans to hail Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested on February 12.