‘Delhi Police Roped Them As Scapegoats, Prosecution Launched In Cavalier Fashion’: Court Discharges Sharjeel Imam, Others In 2019 Jamia Violence Case
Discharging Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha and eight others in 2019 Jamia violence case, a Delhi Court on Saturday observed that the police was unable to apprehend “actual perpetrators” and “surely managed to rope them (accused) as scapegoats” in the matter.Pulling up the prosecution for filing “ill-conceived chargesheets”, Additional Sessions Judge Arul...
Discharging Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha and eight others in 2019 Jamia violence case, a Delhi Court on Saturday observed that the police was unable to apprehend “actual perpetrators” and “surely managed to rope them (accused) as scapegoats” in the matter.
Pulling up the prosecution for filing “ill-conceived chargesheets”, Additional Sessions Judge Arul Varma observed that the police has “arbitrarily chosen” to array some people from the protesting crowd as accused and others as police witnesses.
This “cherry picking” is detrimental to the precept of fairness, the court added.
Observing that mere presence at the protest site without overt acts cannot lead to implication as accused, the judge said that the prosecution has ex facie been launched in a “perfunctory and cavalier fashion” against them.
It said that to allow such persons undergo rigmarole of long drawn trial, does not augur well for the criminal justice system of our country.
“The desideratum is for the investigative agencies to discern the difference between dissent and insurrection. The latter has to be quelled indisputably. However, the former has to be given space, a forum, for dissent is perhaps reflective of something which pricks a citizen's conscience,” the court said.
The court thus discharged Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar, Mohd. Abuzar, Umair Ahmed, Mohd. Shoaib, Mahmood Anwar, Mohd. Qasim, Mohd. Bilal Nadeem, Shahzar Raza Khan and Chanda Yadav. However, it framed charges against Mohd. Ilyas.
The case is connected to the incidents of violence at Jamia Milia Islamia University in December, 2019. The FIR alleged offences of rioting and unlawful assembly - sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 186, 353, 332, 333, 308, 427, 435, 323, 341, 120B and 34 of IPC were invoked in the case.
However, Imam still remains in custody in other FIRs registered against him concerning 2020 North-East Delhi riots.
Imam, Tanha and Zargar are accused in the Special Cell's case alleging larger conspiracy behind the Northeast Delhi riots of 2020.
In the Jamia violence case, the police had filed a chargesheet against Mohd Ilyas on April 21, 2020. A second supplementary chargesheet was then filed against 11 other accused persons, who have been discharged in the matter.
A third supplementary chargesheet was also filed recently on February 1, 2023, during continuation of arguments on charge. The prosecution tried to establish that the witnesses had identified the accused persons on the basis of some photographs.
The judge observed that Delhi Police failed to adduce fresh evidence and rather sought to present old facts in the garb of “further investigation” by filing another supplementary chargesheet.
“In the present case, it has been most unusual of the police to file one chargesheet and not one but three supplementary chargesheets, with really nothing new to offer. This filing of a slew of chargesheets must cease, else this juggernaut reflects something beyond mere prosecution, and would have the effect of trampling the rights of accused persons,” it said.
It further said that there were no eyewitnesses who could substantiate the police’s version that the accused persons were in anyway involved in the commission of the offences.
It said that no test identification parade was carried out during investigation until filing of the third supplementary chargesheet and that the photographs and videos only demonstrate that the accused persons were standing behind the barricades.
“There is nothing on record to even prima facie suggest that the accused herein were part of some riotous mob. None of the accused herein were brandishing any weapon or throwing any stones etc. Thus, prima facie there is no evidence qua the accused herein that they resisted the execution of any law. Surely prosecutions cannot be launched on the basis of conjectures and surmises, and chargesheets definitely cannot be filed on the basis of probabilities,” it said.
The court said that liberty of protesting citizens should not have been lightly interfered with and that dissent is nothing but an “extension of the invaluable fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression contained in Article 19” subject to the restrictions contained therein.
It is a right which we are sworn to uphold, the judge said.
The court also said that in the present case, the investigative agencies should have incorporated the use of technology, or have gathered credible intelligence, adding that then only it should have embarked on “galvanizing the judicial system qua the accused persons.”
“Else, it should have abstained from filing such an ill-conceived chargesheets qua persons whose role was confined only to being a part of a protest,” the court said.