Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Delhi HC seeks police stand on Sharjeel Imam’s plea against addition of sedition charge

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The Delhi High Court on Friday asked Delhi Police to respond to jailed Muslim activist Sharjeel Imam’s plea seeking the dismissal of a supplementary chargesheet that introduced charges of sedition and ‘hate speech’ in a case related to his anti-CAA speech delivered at Jamia Millia Islamia in December 2019.

Imam’s counsel told the court that the challenge to the police’s supplementary chargesheet was regarding the addition of the offences of sedition — which has already been stayed by the Supreme Court — and ‘hate speech.’

A separate FIR for these offences has already been registered by Delhi Police in relation to two of his speeches during the anti-CAA protests, including the speech in question here, the lawyer said.

Imam said there cannot be multiple criminal proceedings on the same incident against a person and multiple prosecutions launched against him for the same alleged speech are “illegal” and against the Constitution.

The High Court will hear the case again on October 18.

Sharjeel Imam, a research student at Jawaharlal Nehru University and a Muslim activist who was targeted by the Hindu nationalist BJP government for his dissents against discriminatory citizenship acts, completed three years and four months in prison so far.

In January 2020, during the historic agitation against discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), Imam was charged with draconian acts sedition and UAPA by five Indian states for his speeches against CAA and NRC. Following the huge hate campaign on the Internet and governments’ notices after notices, the Ph.D. student from Bihar surrendered to Delhi Police on 28 January 2020.

In the speeches, Imam had called for a road blockade as a method of protest against CAA. The police in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh registered FIRs against the speech and according to their chargesheets, his speech was secessionist and inflammatory.

Police alleged that his speeches had led to protests in Jamia Milia Islamia and also to fuelled tension in the days leading to the 2020 northeast Delhi pogrom. Delhi Police booked Imam in the Delhi pogrom conspiracy case and the Jamia protest case too.

The 34-year-old Imam is believed to be the pioneer of the Shaheen Bagh protest, 100-day-long peaceful and historic sit-in in the New Delhi organised in response to the passage of the CAA by the Indian Parliament in December 2019.

Though Imam got bails in some of the UAPA and the sedition cases, he will continue to remain in custody as he is yet to get bail in other cases pending against him.

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