Saturday, June 22, 2024

“No reason to deny relief”: Delhi HC’s bail order in Sharjeel Imam case slams trial court

The Delhi High Court said there was no “justifiable reason” to not grant bail to Muslim student activist Sharjeel Imam in a case related to the 2020 Northeast Delhi pogrom.

It stated that the trial court got “swayed by the enormity of the allegations” including sedition and UAPA while denying him the relief.

A bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait, which granted bail to Imam on May 29, more than four years after he was arrested, said in its recently uploaded order that the mere fact of the allegations being serious cannot be a ground to decline bail under section 436-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The court asserted that CrPC section 436-A was a benevolent provision which was enacted with the idea that no undertrial prisoner be detained in jail beyond half of the maximum sentence provided for such offences unless there are rational and logical reasons to direct otherwise.

“In the case in hand, we do not find any justifiable reason which could have compelled the court from not granting the relief,”the order read.

According to the prosecution, Imam made speeches at the Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and the Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019, where he threatened to cut off Assam and the rest of the northeast from the country.

In 2022, the trial court framed charges against him under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity), 153B (imputations prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC and section 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, an anti-terror law.

The activist’s lawyer had contended in the high court that material witnesses were yet to be examined in the case and the trial in the FIR cannot be concluded in view of the Supreme Court direction keeping in abeyance the operation of IPC section 124A (sedition).

While granting the relief, the court rejected the Delhi Police’s objection that the delay was solely attributable to Imam as it was at his instance that the trial was stayed in the year 2022.

The court asserted that any accused who chooses to avail legal remedy cannot be blamed for causing delay and in the present case, the stay order was given on the basis of joint statements of parties and it was not further challenged by the State.

“If any accused chooses to avail legal remedy and that too in terms of specific judicial pronouncement, he cannot be blamed for causing delay in the matter. Since he continued to be in detention, he was, even otherwise, not going to dig out any advantage at all, by exploring such other possible legal avenues,” the court observed.

“We have no hesitation in holding that there was, actually speaking, nothing on record which could have disentitled the accused from seeking relief under Section 436-A CrPC. Resultantly, we hereby allow the appeal and direct that appellant be released on bail on terms and conditions to be imposed by the learned Trial Court,” the court ordered.

The Delhi High Court on May 29 granted bail to Imam in a case about making allegedly seditious speeches during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

He will, however, remain in jail in the larger conspiracy case involving the draconian UAPA charges related to the Delhi pogrom 2020.

Imam has been in jail since January 28, 2020.

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