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Was there really a need to arrest student from JNU?

Supercop and former DGP Amod Kanth has for long been a Delhi Police officer who often dealt with students unrest in campuses. He talks to Amresh Srivastava about the crisis in JNU

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Mar 8 2016 2:31PM | Updated Date: Mar 11 2016 2:55PM
Amod Kanth has for long been a Delhi Police officer who often dealt with students unrest in campuses. He talks to Amresh Srivastava about the crisis in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Excerpts from the interview:

How do you look at the entire incident of the JNU?

The JNU incident coincides with someone who was hanged to death through a judicial legal process against whom there was extremely serious charge of having attempted to disrupt this country’s integrity. You can’t allow institution perhaps one of the best in the country, a university which is supposed to be working on public fund, a university which is supposed to be a symbol of national excellence to be utilised for a purpose like this. The issue isn’t whether the event was meant to oppose the death sentence of a person who according to some should have been given that or not, but the alleged act was something which the nation will not accept. That is one part of it.
The second part is the event itself. What investigation says, according to FIR the entire event was managed. Some people were allegedly making statements which according to the law under Indian Penal Code (IPC) 124 are not allowed. The law does not allow any activity which is likely to destabilise the Government establishment or to allow anything which is disruptive to the extent that the national integrity or national sovereignty is somewhere jeopardised. Whether you equate the State or the Government activity with the national activity is something which can go in the domain of let’s say academic discussion.

I am not against it. I am only saying that the FIR says that they were raising anti- national slogans. The occasion was meant to oppose the hanging of the death sentence, execution of the person who was declared to be a kind of acting against national interest. Now who was raising slogans, or speaking against the national interest and who was kind of acting or uttering sentences which could have been covered within the definition of the section 124. Now if you ask me to answer, as per the law if a five persons come together for a particular incident and that incident by itself is declared illegal than all the five become accountable. From this point of view Kanhiya Kumar is definitely liable. He was the leader. He was one of the organisers and participated in the event where these things were happening.
Let me give you another example, in the notorious case of Nirbhaya, a child was allegedly involved in the crime even though there was no solid evidence against him and yet the entire world talked about the juvenile to the extent that the JJ act got changed because of the public opinion.
The public opinion was so orchestrated that a very innocent law got changed despite the fact that there was no evidence against the child. But why was he charged because he was one of those six persons in the bus. There was no evidence about him doing that thing. It was wrong information that he was brutal or extra active. The point I am trying to make is that the law is like this, that if somebody is party to a particular event and there is a group of people who are together acting, each one become liable for the collective action. That is the law.
The way the police handled the entire episode has become debatable by its action. How do you look at it?
Whether the way police should have gone into the campus and the way police went there, that has to be seen separately. Traditionally, police doesn’t enter into a university, a college or an educational institution. Though the law is very clear that police has to go. Police is bound to go. If the police was waiting outside the campus and the other agitators were inside, it is totally illegal situation. Legally speaking the VC of JNU could have been charged for harboring the criminals. Anybody who were supporting these boys and were in the campus a case can be registered against them. But then you decide to take a different view. If I am to comment as a law enforcement officer anyone who were either raising those slogans or were part of that group which organised this kind of event all of them become liable. What type of evidence comes, whether they will be convicted or not that is a judicial process. In investigation they have to collect the evidence. Now the question comes that whether there was a need to arrest or not. That is a debatable issue. The law doesn’t require that you must arrest a person, it is not necessary for investigation you arrest a person. It has to be left to the discretion of the investigating team or officer by and large whether a person is required to be kept in custody in order to maintain law and order or if there is a threat that the evidence can be destroyed or the witnesses might be influenced in the process of the trial. If that be the case, then a person can be arrested and kept in the custody.
Was the arrest of Kanahya Kumar necessary?
Whether all these things were required to arrest Kanahiya is something to be decided by the investigative officers because I don’t have the knowledge of the evidence which they have collected. The police have claimed that they have sufficient evidence against them and they can’t get away. This seems to be correct also because Supreme Court did not intervene, that of course for a different reason. The HC did not entertain for different reason. The magistrate is looking into it and the person is not bailed out yet. The person would have bailed out the same evening, if let us say there was no evidence and the magistrate or the judicial officers was convinced that there is no evidence then he could have been bailed out. So there could be some evidence. Regarding others, even though I have no idea but it appears to me that their involvement could be more direct because there are some evidence based on that they were using some kind of language. If you look the entire situation looks purely from the investigation point of view or from the judicial point of view the police action can be endorsed. But then perhaps the police was unaware or perhaps the police could not visualise the huge consequences of the act either. They could have handled the situation differently.
Do you think that the police should have been more cautious and prudent in taking action in the wake of the incident or while making arrest?
The tolerance of such activities in the campus by the students is perhaps less in the present scenario then it was or would have been in the past. Certain political parties tend to tolerate these kind of situation more comfortably which others may not. It is very complex situation whether such kind of conducts should be outrightly rejected and tackled with firm hand on the plea of national interest or perhaps there should be some space allowed where people can be free thinkers and discuss on any issue be it nationalism, patriotism, religion etc. I personally feel that there should be a free debate on every issue but then can we allow it to that extent where it becomes a concern about our national interest needs to be looked upon. Today, we are facing insurgency in North East, terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the question is whether India can allow it to be like other Soviet Union.
What has been your own experience in such situations as a police officer?
Dialogue and convincing people is the core of policing. In police there are two ways either you act according to the situation or by your experience. I can quote my personal experiences when I was Additional Commissioner of Police in south Delhi in 1970, there was a huge uproar in JNU, the other incident took place in Jamia Millia and the other one in AIIMS but we manage to curb all three situation amicably. I think the situation in JNU could have been handled in a better way. At first place the event should not have been allowed. I think the administration in the campus is weak and you can’t allow campus to become lawless. You have to maintain some kind of discipline. On average Rs 3 lakh is spend on one student in JNU. It’s huge money. Are students in JNU doing what they are supposed to do. I personally feel that educational institutions should not be turned into political hotbed.
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