New Delhi- The Delhi High Court today sought Delhi Police's reply on the bail plea of JNU Student Sharjeel Imam, arrested in a case related to alleged inflammatory speeches made by him during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2019.
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anoop Kumar Mendiratta issued notice to Delhi Police Crime Branch and asked it to file reply within 10 days while listing the matter for further hearing on March 24.
As per the prosecution, Sharjeel Imam had allegedly made speeches at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and at Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019, where he threatened to cut off Assam and the rest of the Northeast from India.
Sharjeel Imam has approached the high court challenging a trial court's January 24 order denying him bail in the case.
During the hearing, the bench was of the prima facie view that the trial court has not dealt with relevant considerations for grant or denial of bail.
"He (trial court judge) has dealt with nothing. All these offences are less than seven years. We are asking you (police) why he should not be enlarged on bail? If he a flight risk? Will he tamper with evidence? Who are the witnesses?" the bench asked.
To this, the prosecutor said Sharjeel Imam has also been charged with Section 124A (punishment for Sedition) of the IPC which entails for life imprisonment.
The bench said sedition requires specific calls for violence and this issue has been dealt with by the court long back.
"We actually don't want to reinvent the wheels here. It is very clear... The incitement has to be of violence. There has to be a conscious act promoting violence. You examine it," the bench said, adding that the police will have to persuade the court as to why bail should not be granted to Sharjeel Imam.
It further stated that if the accused is convicted and sentenced, it is a different thing but in pre-conviction detention, the court should have compelling reasons to detain him.
"We don't know for how long the trial will go on," it said.
The court also asked the counsel for Sharjeel Imam that if it considers releasing him on bail, how it will be checked that he does not indulge in the act of giving speech again. "Because it was not a solitary instance, it was repeated," it said.
Sharjeel Imam's counsel said he is in custody for last 25 months and there is no likelihood of trial getting over in the near future as there are more than 170 witnesses to be examined and the trial has not even started yet.
The bail plea said that the instant FIR was registered against Sharjeel Imam on January 25, 2020, simultaneously with four other FIRs across multiple states for the same speeches attributed to him.
It said the instant FIR was originally registered for the offences punishable under sections 124A (punishment for sedition, 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence), 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505(2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the IPC and later section 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was added.
Subsequently, Sharjeel Imam was arrested in this case from Bihar on January 28, 2020 and was remanded to police custody for 8 days and has been in continuous judicial custody since then.
He is also one of the accused in the 2020 Delhi riots conspiracy case.
The prosecution has claimed that his speeches incited hatred, contempt, and disaffection towards the central government and instigated the people which led to the violence in December 2019.
"In the garb of CAA, he (Sharjeel Imam) exhorted people of a particular community to block highways leading to major cities and resort to 'chakka jaam'. Also, in the name of opposing CAA, he openly threatened to cut off Assam and other Northeastern states from the rest of the country," the Delhi Police charge sheet has stated.
In his defence, Sharjeel Imam had earlier told the court that he was not a terrorist and his prosecution is a "whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law". Whereas, the prosecution claimed that violent riots took place pursuant to Sharjeel Imam's speech.
Delhi Police had filed a charge sheet before the trial court against Sharjeel Imam in the case, in which it alleged that he gave speeches inciting hatred, contempt, and disaffection towards the central government and instigated the people which led to the violence in December 2019.
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