The Delhi High Court Wednesday listed for hearing on July 26 former JNU student Sharjeel Imam's plea for release in a sedition case for allegedly delivering an inflammatory speech and inciting violence during the CAA-NRC protests in 2019. Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta deferred consideration on Imam's claim for interim bail on account of the Supreme Court putting in abeyance section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code and said that any finding concerning the speech in question would have an impact on other FIRs arising from it and therefore an elaborate hearing would have to be held.
Considering the facts and circumstances and since apart from section 124A IPC, the prosecution has also invoked section 153, a detailed hearing would be required, stated the court. Special public prosecutor Amit Prasad sought an adjournment on account of the non-availability of the additional solicitor general who was to make submissions.
There is a cascading effect of the same speech. We will hear it at length. It would be more appropriate when ASG (additional solicitor general) is present and we will hear it in one go, the court said. Imam’s application for interim bail forms part of his application seeking bail in the case and assailing a trial court’s October 22 order by which his bail plea was dismissed.
Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir appeared on behalf of Imam. On May 11, the Supreme Court had stayed till further orders on the registration of FIRs, probes, and the coercive measures for the offence of sedition across the country by the Centre and the states until an appropriate forum of the government re-examines the colonial-era penal law.
Earlier this month, while granting time to the prosecution to respond to the plea for interim bail, the court had said that the liberty of the accused was of paramount consideration and it cannot be curtailed if the pending trials invoking Section 124A of IPC are to be kept in abeyance. Delhi Police has opposed the main bail plea before the high court saying that the accused was seen instigating a particular religious section of the community against the government by creating unfounded fears in their minds regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The prosecution has alleged that, on December 13, 2019, Imam delivered a provocative speech that resulted in riots two days later when a mob consisting of over 3,000 people attacked police personnel and torched several vehicles in the Jamia Nagar area in south Delhi. It has stated that Imam's speech revealed that the speaker by way of misinformation is inciting the gathering to revolt against the government of the day by exhorting the general public to block the ingress and egress to 500 cities in India, which have a substantial Muslim population.
The trial court had denied Imam bail last year, saying free speech cannot be exercised at the cost of communal peace and harmony. It had said that the evidence in support of the allegations that the rioters got instigated by Imam's speech and thereafter indulged in the acts of rioting, mischief, and attacking the police party, was scanty and sketchy.