Sharjeel Imam was denied bail in the northeast Delhi violence larger conspiracy UAPA case by Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat Monday.
Judge Amitabh Rawat had earlier denied bail to activists Umar Khalid, Gulfisha Fathima, Meeran Haider, and Shifaur Rahman in the similar case.
Imam’s lawyer, Adv Tanveer Ahmed Mir averred that Imam cannot be legally charged for conspiracy after his arrest in another riots case, days before the events of the crime charged against him unfolded.
He argued that we cannot afford to have a system where conspiracies become endless and are rendered in perpetuity.
The counsel summed up his argument in the statement, “Arrest is prior, act is later. Arrest is prior, riot is later.”
In January 2020, during the historic agitation against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), Imam was charged with draconian acts of 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.
Sharjeel Imam, a research student at Jawaharlal Nehru University has been languishing in jail for more than 2 years.
The other accused persons in the UAPA case are activists Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi, former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan, former Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Millia Islamia student activists Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar and Asif Iqbal Tanha, student activist Gulfisha Fatima, Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association president Shifa ur Rahman, and educational consultant Tasleem Ahmad.
Imam was among dozens arrested for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which fast-tracks Indian naturalisation for religious minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, but makes no reference to Muslims.
The passage of the law, which the United Nations called “fundamentally discriminatory”, saw tens of thousands of Indians taking to the streets. It was during the anti-CAA protests that violence erupted in Muslim neighbourhoods of northeast Delhi in February last year. At least 53 people, most of them Muslims, were killed, and dozens of houses and mosques destroyed.
Rights groups accused the police in Delhi of inaction and complicity in the violence, the worst the capital had seen since the anti-Sikh genocide of 1984.
In the police crackdown that followed the anti-Muslim pogrom, dozens of activists – a large number of them Muslims, some victims of the violence – were accused of instigating the violence and arrested under draconian UAPA and other charges.