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Sedition Case: Delhi Court Proposes Day To Day Hearing Of Trial Against Sharjeel Imam In Anti-CAA Speeches Case

Nupur Thapliyal
15 March 2022 2:50 PM GMT
Sedition Case: Delhi Court Proposes Day To Day Hearing Of Trial Against Sharjeel Imam In Anti-CAA Speeches Case
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A Delhi Court on Tuesday proposed day to day hearing of the trial against Sharjeel Imam 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.Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat today formally framed charges against Imam in his presence and read out and explained the said charges...

A Delhi Court on Tuesday proposed day to day hearing of the trial against Sharjeel Imam 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.

Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat today formally framed charges against Imam in his presence and read out and explained the said charges to him.

The Court had vide order dated January 24, 2022 had framed charges 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.

"Misguided One Community With Resentment, Hatred Towards Others:": Delhi Court On Framing Sedition Charges Against Sharjeel Imam

Imam was booked vide FIR 22/2020 registered by the Delhi Police. The alleged offence under UAPA was added later. 

"This is a case under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Since the bail has been denied to the accused vide order dated 24.01.2022 and this Court had suggested that the trial of the case shall be completed expeditiously, the Court proposes to do day to day hearing this matter," the Court recorded in the order.

Accordingly, the Court has now listed the matter on March 26 for admission or denial of documents under Section 293 Cr.P.C and for prosecution evidence on March 28 and 29.

"Let material witnesses be summoned first for next date. I.O along with MHC(M) and the SHO concerned shall be present on the next date," the Court directed.

While reading out the charges so framed, the Court concluded thus:

"That you accused Sharjeel Imam on 13.12.2019 at Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi, on 16.01.2020 at Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, on 22.01.2020 at Asansol in West Bengal and on 23.01.2020 at Chakand Gaya in Bihar, gave speeches and also distributed pamphlets at at Delhi and elsewhere to commit or advocate, abet, advise or incite the commission of any unlawful activity i.e. the cession of a part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union or to disrupt or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or to cause or intended to cause dissatisfaction against India, and you thus, committed an offence punishable under Section 13 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act within the cognizance of this court. I hereby direct that you be tried on the above said charges."

Importantly, the said order framing charges against Imam has been challenged in the Delhi High Court. A division bench comprising of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta had sought response of the prosecution on the plea earlier this month while posting the matter for further hearing on May 26.

About order on Framing of Charges

Perusing the speeches and other material provided by the prosecution, the Court had said that prima facie, there appeared to be a tendency to create public disorder and incitement to violence.

"Speech also appears to challenge the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India. It also appears to create hatred/contempt for the lawful institutions of the State and to challenge them by unlawful means," the Judge had added.

Importantly, the Court had made the following observations while going through the legislative provisions and offences invoked:

- Any comment by itself marking disapproval of any measures of the government is not within the purview of this Section.

- Criticism of any government, government policies or even institutions is fundamentally within the reach of freedom of speech and expression. In fact, criticism and rallying people against what one perceives to be incorrect policy or even law is what makes a country democratic.

- Dissent is the hallmark of a progressive and democratic nation. Even advocacy of a point of view regardless of its force or reasoning or even palpable reprehensibility is not touched by this provision.

- What the Court has to discern is whether the activities of an accused brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excites disaffection towards government established by law.

- What is objectionable and punishable is the activities intending or having a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence.

- The cherished Fundamental Rights of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution is one of the pillars of a modern democratic nation which seeks to enhance its progress by constant exchange of ideas and meaningful discourse. This will take, within its ambit, the right to offend as naturally curbing any idea or expression which tends to be away from the mainstream and causes affront or offence to some people, would remove the efficacy of the right itself.

- It is equally true, however, that such right is subject to reasonable restrictions. But whenever, one talks of said rights of an individual, it must also be cognizant of the Fundamental Rights of other citizens. While maintaining this balance, the Directive Principles of State policy and Fundamental Duties cannot be just given a go by or consigned to ignominious side existence.

The Court was of the view that since speeches are reflection of one's thoughts, all the speeches made by Sharjeel Imam will have to be read in completion to decipher what he was thinking and trying to convince all those who had gathered around him and to whom the speech would get disseminated to.

Perusing the speeches in question, the Court had said that a reading of entire speeches of Sharjeel Imam, "at least on a prima facie level, brings to the core the fundamental thinking, ideas and intent of the accused."

"The speeches are delivered and aimed at Muslim audience present there and to whom it will disseminate to. It will also be read and heard by people of other communities. The speeches seems to be indicative of showing the worthlessness of the community and existential crises. The issue of demographic profile in certain cities is misleading and needs to be explained at trial. Again the issue of ridiculing cow protection and in the context of secularism requires explanation at trial," the Court had said.

"The accused in his speeches has made vituperative utterances against even the Father of the Nation. He seems to be skeptical of the ideas of secularism and democracy that has come about post Constitution."

The Court had said that on a prima facie level, it appeared that Imam was trying to convince that Muslims as a community have been deprived because of the Constitution and the people who made the Constitution or who are required to protect it.

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