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'Can A Person Be Booked For Sedition For Criticizing A Political Narrative?': Sharjeel Imam To Delhi Court In His Bail Plea

Nupur Thapliyal
15 July 2021 12:19 PM GMT
Can  A Person Be Booked For Sedition For Criticizing A Political Narrative?: Sharjeel Imam To Delhi Court In His Bail Plea
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A Delhi Court on Thursday heard the bail application filed by Sharjeel Imam in relation to the speeches made by him in Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia area in Delhi. FIR 22/2020 was registered by the Delhi Police under sec. 124A, 153A, 505 of the Indian Penal Code along with sec. 13 of the UAPA which was added later. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat heard Advocate Tanveer Ahmed...

A Delhi Court on Thursday heard the bail application filed by Sharjeel Imam in relation to the speeches made by him in Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia area in Delhi.

FIR 22/2020 was registered by the Delhi Police under sec. 124A, 153A, 505 of the Indian Penal Code along with sec. 13 of the UAPA which was added later.

Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat heard Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir appearing on behalf of Sharjeel Imam who posed a question to the Court "If somebody is a critic of a constitutional policy, does that enable the State to book him for sedition?".

"Somebody trying to criticise the Constitution as it is, somebody trying to criticise the government policy or political narrative, can only be booked under sedition for oblique motives and nothing else. That is what is apparent on the face of it." Mir submitted at the outset.

Mir submitted before the Court that the investigative authority had taken "selective passages and lines" from the speech made by him and have given an illegal context to it by cut pasting the same.

"To the best of my understanding, sec. 124A of IPC and sec. 13 of UAPA have been adumbrated by the Supreme Court as well as various High Court wherein it has been stated that in order to implicate somebody, the entire speech be taken into consideration and then it has to be deduced that whether while making the speech, it is causing any act of Sedition or inciting violence etc." Mir submitted.

While arguing so, reliance was made on the landmark judgment on sedition in Kedar Nath case to the recent judgement of the Supreme Court in Vinod dua case.

Relying on the relevant extracts of the speech in question wherein it was alleged that Sharjeel incited violence, it was argued on behalf of Sharjeel that the speech was made in the context of agitation of NRC and CAA which was given a selective passage reading by the investigation agency.

"Whereas petitioner (Sharjeel) says you'll not be able to move the government if you don't block the roads. Is the speech really seditious? Does it call for people to come up with arms and resort to violence?" Mir submitted.

On the relevant portions of the speech in question dealing with the aspect of democracy, Mir submitted that Sharjeel Imam being a student of modern history, is entitled to express his views as a citizen of the Country regarding whether an action by the State is per se discriminatory or not.

"How does this implicated sec. 13 of the UAPA?" Mir questioned at the outset.

"Question would be whether criticism of anybody and in this case by Sharjeel enables the State to pick him up, lock him up and through him in the dungeon? A person who goes to Jawaharlal Nehru University will go to Tihar as well. Probably its the route now." Mir submitted.

While arguing so, Mir submitted that such a way of agitating against government policies was adopted by Indian citizens both in pre and post partition era. He casted examples of movements like "Rail roko andolan", "bharat bandh" and "Jaat andolan".

"If he says that the Constitution is cleverly written by people belonging to certain communities,he doesn't offer himself to be booked for sedition." Mir submitted.

While arguing on the context of speech delivered in Jamia area, Mir submitted that the FIR registered is just an excerpt cleverly taken by the police, losing complete context of the intent by which it was made.

"There is no disaffection created against the government. He doesn't say you have to resort to violence. What all he has said is a legitimate ground and grievance." Mir submitted.

After completion of today's arguments, the Court posted the matter for further hearing on 2nd and 4th August.

The Court was also informed that another bail application seeking regular bail has been moved on behalf of Sharjeel Imam in FIR 59/2020 which relates to the larger conspiracy case. The Court accordingly listed the same for hearing on August 6.

An FIR had been filed against Imam under Sections 153A, 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, and pursuant to the same, Imam had been arrested on January 28th, 2020.

Subsequently, provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, had been invoked against him. 

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