"The unity of India is not made of bamboo reeds which will bend to the passing winds of empty slogans."
These were the words of the Allahabad High Court in an order granting bail to three Kashmiri students, who were arrested in Agra on 27 October for allegedly cheering for the Pakistani cricket team after it beat India during the T20 Cricket World Cup match held last year, on Wednesday, 30 March.
Further, the court, in its order, said:
"The foundations of our nation are more enduring. Eternal ideals bind the indestructible unity of India. Constitutional values create an indissoluble union of India. Every citizen of the country is the custodian, and the State is the sentinel of the unity of India and the constitutional values of the nation."
The bail order was passed by Justice Ajay Bhanot of the Allahabad High Court.
The students – Altaf Shaikh, Shaukat Ahmed Ghani, and Arshid Yusuf – had been in jail since 28 October last year after being charged with sedition (Section 124A, Indian Penal Code) for raising slogans and writing posts on social media in favour of Pakistan after the team achieved a 10-wicket victory over India.
Advocate Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi, who represented the accused, said that he was satisfied with the bail order.
The FIR was initially registered under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups) and 505 (creating or publishing content to promote enmity). Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC was included later.
On the day they were produced in court and remanded to custody, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had said that those who celebrated Pakistan's win would be booked for sedition.
Before their arrest, the three students were also suspended from the Raja Balwant Singh Management Technical Campus in Agra.
WHAT ELSE DID THE COURT SAY?
"Students travelling freely to different parts of the country in the quest for knowledge is the true celebration of India's diversity and a vivid manifestation of India's unity," the court said in their order, after pointing out that:
- It is the duty of the people of the hosting state to create enabling conditions for visiting scholars to learn and live the constitutional values of our nation
- It is also the obligation of the young scholars to imbibe and adhere to such values
The high court also said that it was entertaining the bail application under exceptional circumstances.
"It is informed that the Agra District Bar Association had passed a resolution for not providing any legal assistance to the applicants," the court pointed out.
Further, sharing that the court was not enquiring into the allegation of assault on the applicants at this stage "since it is better to enlarge the applicants on bail and cut the controversy short," the order also said:
"However, the court feels that if the allegations are true, it is a matter of concern. Lawyers have an oath inscribed in their consciences to assist the cause of law under all circumstances and to serve justice to all those who seek it at all times."
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