A Sessions Court in Mumbai recently granted anticipatory bail to two Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) students booked for sedition for allegedly encouraging sloganeering in support of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Sharjeel Imam at an LGBTQ rally in Mumbai on February 1, 2020.
Additional Sessions Judge MG Deshpande confirmed interim bail to 22-year-old Ambadi B, observing that there was nothing before the court to show he was part of the gathering and raised anti-national slogans. The second order is yet to be uploaded.
The Azad Maidan police booked three TISS students and 50-60 unknown others under section 124A (sedition), 153B(provocation for riot), and 505 read with 34(common intention) of IPC after a clip of student Urvashi Chudawala saying, "Sharjil, Tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pahuchayenge" went viral on social media and others were seen "clapping and supporting" the slogans.
In the FIR, the complainant police officer said that after the clip went viral, he watched Sharjeel's speeches and found they were seditious, and the Delhi police have rightly booked him for sedition. Since the group was "supporting" him, they were also booked for the same charge.
The court noted that even according to the police, Chudawala was the only one raising slogans, and she was granted interim protection by the Bombay High Court last year. Even otherwise, the police did not produce the alleged viral clip.
"Careful reading of the FIR and the file of investigation prima-facie indicates that the informant had watched the speech of Sharjil Imam on social media and realized that this accused, along with others, are his supporters, hence, committed offence of sedition. Basically, there is nothing before the court to even hold that the present applicant was part of the said assembly and gave anti-national slogans attributing sedition," the court observed.
The judge said he is empowered to test the applicability of sections applied at the stage of anticipatory bail. And the same nowhere indicates the active role of the present accused to contribute any of the offences mentioned in the FIR.
"Therefore, In my opinion, the prosecution is utterly failed to point out the role attributed to the present accused and the same amounts offence under Section 124A,153B and 505 r.w. 34 of I.PC as alleged," the court observed.
Advocate Vijay Hiremath had argued that the applicant is from Kerala and can not understand Hindi. Moreover, he is a 22-year-old student, and an arrest has far-reaching consequences it may spoil his career forever. Furthermore, he hadn't breached a single condition after he was granted interim relief last year.
The prosecution contended the connection between the present applicant and Sherjeel Imam needs to be verified. The investigation needs to be done to find out how many and which plans have been made by the applicant to affect the unity of the nation, the police said. There are other 50-60 accused persons whose names and involvement in the crime are to be confirmed, therefore custodial interrogation is necessary.
"At the cost of repetition, it has to be noted that there is nothing before the court to indicate involvement of the accused in the offence allegedly against him. Even the role of the present accused is different from the role of Urvashi. When the applicant is protected by interim order from one and half years, rejection of the application will drag him in another difficulty by spoiling his career. Hence, I hold that applicant has made out a strong prima-facie case for confirming the interim protection order passed by my Ld. Predecessor," the court observed.
Granting interim relief to Chudawala last year, Justice SK Shinde had observed that prima-facie, the slogans shouted, cannot be perceived as a threat to the integrity of the Nation.
"It appears, the applicant raised the slogans …to exhibit her solidarity with the persons who had been exercising their fundamental right to dissent. It is therefore to be stated that, merely showing solidarity with a person or a group of persons, who are exercising their opposition to the CAA and National Register of Citizens, prima-facie, may not be sufficient to believe that the applicant had in fact caused and/or attempted to cause disaffection against the government established by law either by prior enmity between different religious groups or otherwise to create disharmony," the High Court had observed.
Case Title: Ambadi B v. State of Maharashtra