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'Sedition Requires Call For Violence, Why Should He Not Be Granted Bail?': Delhi HC Issues Notice On Sharjeel Imam's Plea In Anti-CAA Speeches Case

Nupur Thapliyal
9 March 2022 6:27 AM GMT
Sedition Requires Call For Violence, Why Should He Not Be Granted Bail?: Delhi HC Issues Notice On Sharjeel Imams Plea In Anti-CAA Speeches Case
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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea filed by Sharjeel Imam, seeking bail in a case relating to the alleged inflammatory speeches made by him in Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia area in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act.A division bench comprising of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta sought response of the prosecution while posting...

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea filed by Sharjeel Imam, seeking bail in a case relating to the alleged inflammatory speeches made by him in Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia area in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

A division bench comprising of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta sought response of the prosecution while posting the matter for further hearing on March 24.

Imam has filed the petition challenging the Trial Court order denying him bail in the FIR in question. It is Imam's case that the Special Court failed to appreciate that in cases where substantive penal offences do not place any embargo on the power of the Court in deciding a bail application, then merely by virtue of the fact that the Court of Sessions having been designated as a 'Special Court' under the NIA Act shall not prejudice the right of an accused to his liberty.

Imam was booked vide FIR 22/2020 registered by the Delhi Police. The alleged offence under UAPA was added later. The Trial Court had framed charges against Imam in the matter under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc.), 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC along with Section 13 (Punishment for unlawful activities) of the UAPA.

During the course of hearing today, Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir argued that the FIR in question seeks to pick up specific lines from the allegedly seditious speech to implicate Imam in the matter. He also argued that at no point of time did Imam called for violence in the speeches.

At the outset, the Bench said that the prosecution ought to prove three broad aspects in order to satisfy the Court to deny bail to Imam, first, whether Imam is at a flight risk, second, whether he can tamper with the evidence and third, whether he can intimidate the witnesses now that the chargesheet is filed in the matter.

"What we really need to look at is that the order (trial court) is very cryptic," Justice Mridul orally remarked.

"This is not a consideration of a bail application. Possibly the special court could have segregated it because order on charge is entirely different preposition," he said further adding that the Trial Court judge did not deal with the said considerations while denying bail to Imam.

"Why should he not be enlarged? Is he a flight risk? Will he tamper with evidence?" Justice Mridul asked prosecution.

On the other hand, Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad appearing for the prosecution submitted that Imam's conduct has to be seen in totality.

Justice Mridul then referred to the Kedarnath judgment dealing with the issue of sedition issue. He said:

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel on this. It is very clear. The incitement has to be of violence. There has to be conscious act of propagating violence or promoting violence. Please examine it."

Accordingly, the matter was posted for further hearing on March 24.

The plea states that criticism of the Indian Constitutional Principles i.e., Secularism and Democracy as it is there in the present form cannot be alleged to having being said to spread disaffection against the Government.

"It is most humbly submitted that the prosecution has tried to create a narrative of communalism and religious extremism around the Appellant Sharjeel Imam by conflating purported discussion of issues affecting a particular religious community," the plea states.

It adds "It is most humbly stated that the prosecution in its unholy quest to make out a case against the Appellant under section 13 of UAPA and 124A of IPC has referred to multiple cases of violence in which FIRs have been registered in Delhi and Aligarh which the prosecution is attributing to the speeches delivered by the Appellant. Firstly, at the cost of repetition it is most humbly submitted that there was absolutely no call for violence/incitement to violence in any of the speeches and secondly, in none of the FIRs referred by the prosecution, the Appellant is an accused but in case FIR No. 242/19, P.S. NFC as already disclosed in para 11 and 12 of the bail application."

Case Title: Sharjeel Imam v. The State of NCT of Delhi

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