Hate speech case: Delhi HC issues notice on Sharjeel Imam’s bail plea

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a bail plea by former JNU student-activist Sharjeel Imam challenging an earlier court order which had rejected the plea.

The case relates to his alleged inflammatory speeches in Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh and Jamia area in Delhi during Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in 2019.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and A.K. Mendiratta, while hearing the submissions of Imam’s counsel Tanveer Ahmed Mir, asked what the special judge had said in the earlier order which rejected the bail plea.

During the course of the hearing, the bench noted that sedition requires specific calls for violence, saying there has to be a conscious act propagating and promoting violence. Mir argued that the FIR has taken out three lines from the speech and led to believe that he was inciting violence.

Observing the earlier court order, the bench said, “He has dealt with nothing. All these offences are less than 7 years.”

To the charges of Delhi Police, the bench asked if he was a flight risk, whether he would tamper with evidence and who the witnesses were?

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on March 24.

Imam has approached the High Court against the orders of the lower court which rejected his bail application.

Additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat on January 24 had framed the charges under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence), 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and 505 of IPC, which deals with statements related to public order.

According to the police, Imam made the alleged inflammatory speeches in Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi on December 13, 2019, and in Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh on January 16, 2020. He has been in judicial custody since January 28, 2020, and is presently lodged in the Tihar Jail in Delhi.

“He is accused of delivering seditious speeches and inciting a particular section of the community to indulge in unlawful activities, detrimental to sovereignty and integrity of the nation,” the charge sheet said.

“In the garb of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, he exhorted people of a particular community to block the highways leading to the major cities and resort to ‘Chakka Jam’, thereby disrupting normal life,” it read.

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