2016 sedition case: SC refuses the plea seeking directions to the Delhi government to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar

A bench of the Supreme Court of India headed by the Chief Justice of India Justice SA Bobde refused to entertain a plea filed by BJP leader Dr Nand Kishore Garg, seeking immediate sanction to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar in the 2016 Jawaharlal Nehru University alleged sedition case and said that, “We will not entertain such a general prayer”.

Prior Facts:

A Delhi High Court last week directed the state government to file a status report in the case April 3. The court also granted police more time to seek sanction from the Aam Aadmi Party-led State government to prosecute accused former JNU students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban. Judge Purshottam Pathak at Patiala House Court had asked the Special Cell of Delhi Police to send a fresh reminder to the Deputy Secretary of Delhi Government’s Home Department, seeking its permission on whether to go ahead with the prosecution or not. The court had earlier pulled up Delhi Police for filing the charge sheet “without obtaining requisite sanction.”

On September 18 last year, the court had asked the Delhi government to decide within one month on the sanction to prosecute Kumar and others, saying the delay has caused wastage of judicial time as the case had been listed and adjourned repeatedly since the filing of the charge sheet. The case pertains to an event organized in Jawaharlal Nehru University on Feb 9, 2016 condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru who plotted 2001 Parliament attack. In January 2019, the Crime Branch of Delhi Police had filed a charge-sheet running into which named 10 JNU students for allegedly raising “seditious” slogans.

Kanhaiya was granted interim bail by the Delhi High Court in the matter in March 2016, almost three weeks after being arrested on charges of sedition. Soon after, an Additional Sessions Judge granted interim bail to Khalid and Bhattacharya in the case. In December last year, the Delhi High Court had declined to entertain Garg’s plea to direct the Delhi Government to grant sanction in the JNU sedition matter. The High Court rejected the PIL, stating that the issue of grant of sanction has to be decided by the Delhi government in accordance with the existing laws.

Key Features:

  • The petition had asked the Apex Court to issue general directions to ensure that prosecution takes place expeditiously in sensitive cases.
  • Apart from Kanhaiya Kumar, the charge sheet has named students Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, and seven others for allegedly raising “anti-national” slogans at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus on February 2, 2016. They are booked for commission of offences under Sections 124A, 143, 147, 149, 120B and 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), investigating agencies are required to get prior approval or sanction of the state government while filing charge sheets in sedition cases.
  • The petition stated that, “The lapses of respondents could amount to threat to the rule of law and democratic structure of our country for not having carried out adequate caution and precaution to bring the real culprits to justice in a time-bound manner”.
  • The petitioner also sought a direction that in long-pending cases where the “state government had not lived up to the rule of law” by not adhering to the solemn oath taken by the lawmakers under Schedule-III of the Constitution of India.
  • It sought a direction to Delhi Government to constitute a high-powered committee to look into the aspects of delay in the procedural compliances, which it said are leading to inordinate delay in the administrative processes for grant of sanction or other compliances in the criminal cases of the state including the criminal case.


Dismissing the plea, the Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant said that, “Such general prayers cannot be entertained.” The Court further also stated that such orders can be passed only on a case to case basis.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Vaibhav Goyal
Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.