The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response of the Delhi Police on a plea by former JNU student Sharjeel Imam, arrested in a case related to alleged inflammatory speeches during the protests against CAA and NRC, challenging a trial court order granting more time to police to conclude the investigation.
Justice V Kameswar Rao, who conducted the hearing through video conferencing, issued notice to the Delhi Police and listed the matter for further hearing on June 10.
The police have been asked to file its response within two weeks.
In the plea, the accused has challenged the trial court's April 25 order by which the Delhi Police was granted three more months, beyond statutory 90 days, to complete the investigation in the case under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Imam was arrested on January 28 from Bihar's Jehanabad district in the case related to violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act near the Jamia Millia Islamia University in December last year.
The statutory period of 90 days from the arrest was concluded on April 27.
He has also sought default bail in the matter on the ground that the investigation was not concluded within the statutory period of 90 days and when the police had filed an application for more time to complete the investigation, he was not given a notice as required under the law.
The trial court had recently dismissed the bail plea.
The trial court had said that the order extending the period of investigation was passed before expiry of the statutory time period of 90 days.
"Since the time period to conclude investigation has already been extended as per section 43 D (2) of UAPA, I am of the considered opinion that application for release of the accused on statutory bail is bereft of merits and the same is accordingly dismissed," the trial court judge had said in the order.
Section 43-D (2) of UAPA provides that if it is not possible to complete the investigation within the 90 days period, then upon the report of the public prosecutor indicating the progress of the probe and the specific reasons for the detention of the accused beyond the 90 days period, after satisfaction, the court can extend the period of the probe to 180 days.
In the petition before the high court, Imam complained that he was not even produced before the court for subsequent remands, every 15 days as per the mandate of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The plea added that the investigating agency, in its April 25 application, only sought extension of time for investigation and it had not sought to extend his judicial custody and, therefore, he was eligible for statutory bail.
"The application (of police) was devoid of the genuine 'compelling reasons' that are required to be disclosed for extension of time beyond 90 days. The application stated that on a careful analysis of the speech of the accused section 13 of the UAPA Act was invoked. But it is unclear why the supposed 'careful' analysis took 88 days or what additional facts have been discovered subsequent to the eight days of police custody to merit invocation of UAPA on the 88th day of custody."
"On two separate occasions when the Investigating Agency sought police custody of the accused, that is, on January 29 and February 3, the investigation agency did not feel the need to invoke Section 13 of the UAPA Act," it said.
Imam is currently lodged in Guwahati jail in a case related to UAPA registered by the Assam police.
The trial court had passed the order on April 25 after the police had submitted that due to global COVID-19 pandemic in the country and the ongoing lockdown, the pace of investigation was seriously disrupted.
The police had further informed the court that they are yet to interrogate the members of WhatsApp group "Muslim students of JNU", persons who provided their accounts to arrange for money to get printed the pamphlets, Imam's friends and persons who initially recorded the video the speech at Jamia are yet to be identified.
Initially, a case under section 124 A (sedition) and 153 A IPC (promoting enmity between classes) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code was registered at the Crime Branch, New Delhi, pursuant to the alleged speeches addressed by Imam, allegedly instigating a particular religious section of the society to disrupt/block the access to North East region of India from rest of India, police had claimed.
The police had earlier charged Imam with sedition, alleging his speech promoted enmity between people that led to riots.
The mob indulged in large-scale rioting, stone-pelting and arson, and in the process destroyed several public and private properties while a number of police personnel and people were injured in the riots, the police had told the court.
Imam was allegedly involved in organising protests at Shaheen Bagh but came into limelight after a video showed him making controversial comments before a gathering at Aligarh Muslim University, following which he was booked under sedition charges.
Another case was filed against Imam in Assam under the stringent anti-terror law for his remark that Assam could be "severed from India, even if for a few months" as a result of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Police in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh had also lodged FIRs against the JNU scholar over his speech in which he threatened to "cut off" Assam and the rest of the northeast from the country.