Hours after the Uttar Pradesh police slapped sedition and other charges on 67 Kashmiri students of a private university in Meerut, who were booked for allegedly cheering the victory of Pakistan over India in the Asia Cup cricket match on Sunday, the State government dropped the charge late on Thursday evening.
However, the other charges of promoting enmity between different groups (Section 153 A) and mischief (Section 427) under the Indian Penal Code against them will stay, the police said.
The FIR against “unknown persons” does not name any of the accused.
The U.P. government dropped the charge after conducting a review. The Union Home Ministry had sought a factual report on the incident and the State “withdrew” the sedition charge after a preliminary inquiry conducted by the district administration, U.P. Principal Secretary (Home) Anil Kumar Gupta said.
Earlier in the day, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah appealed to his U.P. counterpart Akhilesh Yadav to drop the charges against the Kashmiri students of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut.
No complaint University Vice-Chancellor Manzoor Ahmed said the police had acted on their own as the university had not lodged any FIR against the students but only asked the police to escort them to Delhi under security.
The sedition charge against the students had caused dismay and outrage in political and legal circles.
Mr. Abdullah tweeted that the action “is an unacceptably harsh punishment that will ruin their [students’] futures and further alienate them.”
Describing the case as “absurd,” constitutional expert and Rajya Sabha member K.T.S. Tulsi said: “The reaction of the educational institution is unjustified and legally unsustainable.”
Abuse of law
“This is a gross abuse of law. The law is clear that it applies only in the event of someone inciting violence against the Government of India. Cheering for Pakistan — even if it is true — does not attract this charge,” said Vrinda Grover, a prominent human rights lawyer, before the sedition charge was dropped.