Delhi Court grants bail to Sharjeel Imam in sedition case after 31 months of custody

DN Bureau

A Delhi Court on Friday granted bail to Sharjeel Imam in a sedition case lodged against him for allegedly making an inflammatory speech at Jamia during an anti-CAA-NRC protest in 2019. He was in custody for the last 31 months. Read more on Dynamite News:

Sharjeel Imam
Sharjeel Imam

New Delhi: A Delhi Court on Friday granted bail to Sharjeel Imam in a sedition case lodged against him for allegedly making an inflammatory speech at Jamia during an anti-CAA-NRC protest in 2019. He was in custody for the last 31 months. This case was registered at the police station in New Friends Colony, Delhi in 2019.

It is important to note that as the proceedings in the offense of Sedition are in abeyance. He has been granted bail in section 153 (Promoting enmity between the two groups of people) IPC. In this section, the maximum punishment is 3 years. Additional Sessions Judge Anuj Agrawal granted Statutory (Default) bail to Sharjeel Imam in view of his undergone period in custody in section 153 A. He has undergone more than half of the period of the sentence.

The court granted relief to the JNU student on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 30,000 and a surety in the like amount including other conditions. The accused moved an application through advocates Talib Mustafa and Ahmad Ibrahim seeking Statutory bail under section 436 A Crpc was moved on behalf of the accused as he has undergone more than half of the sentence in custody.

Read also: SC collegium recommendation: Eight High Courts including Orissa, Karnataka, J&K, Madras, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bombay and Tripura to get new Chief Justices 

Section 436 A Cr.PC states that where a person has, during the period of investigation, inquiry or trial under the CrPC of an offence under any law (not being an offence for which the punishment of death has been specified as one of the punishments under that law) undergone detention for a period extending up to one half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence under that law, shall be released by the court on his personal bond with or without surety.

His earlier bail application was dismissed by the trial court on October 22, 2021, in view of sections related to Sedition and promoting enmity between groups. He moved the High court against the order.

Meanwhile, the Supreme passed an order on May 17, 2022, directing the government to keep in abeyance all the cases related to the offence of Sedition. Thereafter he had again moved to trial court seeking bail in light of the direction of the supreme court. The trial court had directed the petitioner to seek clarification from the High Court on the provisions of section 436 A Crpc applied in this case.

The Delhi High court on September 26 clarified the issue in an application moved on behalf of Sharjeel Imam. The petitioner had withdrawn his regular bail application. Earlier the trial court had dismissed his bail, saying, "a cursory and plain reading of the speech of December 13, 2019, reveals that the same is clearly on communal/divisive lines. In my view, the tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tend to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquillity, peace and harmony of the society."

The court had also said, "Considering the contents of speech which tend to have a debilitating effect on the communal peace and harmony, I am not inclined to grant bail to the applicant/accused Sharjeel Imam at this stage. The accused cannot claim any parity with the co-accused as his role is entirely different from other co-accused.

However, the Court had also said, in view of the settled position of law, the issue of whether the said speech would fall within the ambit of section 124A IPC or not, requires a deeper analysis at an appropriate stage. Imam was arrested on January 28, 2020, from Bihar for giving allegedly a seditious speech and abetting riots in the Jamia Millia Islamia area in December 2019.

Read also: Delhi HC issues notice to Police Commissioner on plea seeking constitution of Internal Complaint Committee 

According to the Delhi Police, in the said speech, Sharjeel Imam was seen instigating a particular religious community against the government by creating unfounded fears in their minds regarding CAB and NRC.

As per the prosecution, speeches delivered by the applicant/accused were seditious, communal/divisive in nature and were aimed at promoting enmity between different religions. After the conclusion of the investigation, the accused was charge-sheeted for the offence under section 124A/153A for the speech dated 13.12.2019.

The accused was also charge-sheeted for offences under section 143/147/148/149/186/353/332/333/307/308/427/435/323/341/120B/34 IPC & 3/4 Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act & under section 25/27 Arms Act with aid of section 109 IPC for instigating co-accused in committing the said offences.

After taking note of the submission of both sides, Court also observed that "the fundamental right of 'freedom of speech and expression' as enshrined under Article 19 has been placed upon a very high pedestal in the constitution of this country and its essence is well captured in statement of John Milton, the Famous British Poet and Intellect who says "give me the liberty to know, to argue freely, and to utter according to conscience, above all liberties", the court had observed

However, the very same constitution places a reasonable restriction upon exercise of said right inter alia on the grounds of public order and incitement to offence. That apart, Article 51A(e) of the Constitution also casts a fundamental duty upon citizens of this country to promote harmony and spread common brotherhood amongst all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities.

Therefore, it is no gainsaying that the fundamental right of 'freedom of speech and expression' cannot be exercised at the cost of communal peace and harmony of the society, the court had said. Sharjeel Imam is presently facing various cases in Five States, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi. (ANI)

Related Stories