‘Freed’ Kashmiri students can still be jailed, say legal experts

‘Freed’ Kashmiri students can still be jailed, say legal experts

SRINAGAR: Even as sedition charges have been dropped against the 67 Kashmiri students who were suspended by a private university in Uttar Pradesh for having supported Pakistan’s cricket team in a game against India, they still face a potential threat to their career as they remain booked for “causing disharmony” and for “mischief”.
The students of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) in Meerut were booked by police under Sections 124 (a), 153 (a), and 427 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) after they were alleged to have cheered for Pakistan in the Asia Cup cricket match against India on Sunday last. An FIR (no. 113/2014) was registered against them reportedly on the university’s complaint.
The uproar in Kashmir Valley and subsequent intervention of the J&K government resulted in the police dropping sedition charge against the students late Friday. They, however, continue to face charges under IPC sections 153 (a) and 427 for “causing disharmony” and for “mischief”, respectively.
Onkar Singh, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Meerut has already made it clear that the charges under Sections 153A and 427 remain unchanged. “The two charges are currently being investigated. The law will take its own course,” he said.
However, legal experts say the two charges can be detrimental to the career of the 67 Kashmiri students.
“These charges can be equally damaging for their career. The students will be prosecuted, the evidences can be manipulated against them, and then they can even be convicted,” senior lawyer Zaffar A Shah told Kashmir Reader on Friday, as he questioned the legality of imposing charges on the students.
“The applauds from students could have come as a result of the thrilling finish to the match. Obviously the students may not have cheered with the intention of creating disharmony. How can they be charged with section 153 (a),” Shah said.
According to law teacher Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, it would now be a perpetual problem for these students. “They will be caught in the legal tussle once the police (in Meerut) decides to go ahead with prosecuting them.”
“The government of Jammu and Kashmir should demand dissolution of the other charges as well,” he added.
Meanwhile, surprised by the conduct of the varsity authorities and the subsequent filing of charges against them, the Kashmiri students seem reluctant to return to the campus.
“We are not safe in that university,” a group of the students told media persons here. “The local students (at SVSU) are threatening us everyday on the varsity’s Facebook page. They want to kill us, and this is not the first time they have tried to harm us”.
So far, the Kashmiri students haven’t been given a chance to speak before the inquiry committee, which the varsity claims to have set up for looking into the matter. As per the Kashmir students’ account, they were given just half an hour to leave the campus on Monday without being heard by the varsity authorities.
“The university has acted against us without hearing us. We haven’t been given a chance to speak, and they have already pronounced us guilty. There is not a single word against the local students who actually conspired  against us,” the students said.