Sharjeel Imam tells court that without criticism society dies, turns into a heap of sheep

Sharjeel Imam

“There is nothing in the speech which called for any kind of violence” Jawaharlal Nehru University research scholar Sharjeel Imam’s lawyer Tanveer Ahmed Mir told Delhi court, thereby claiming that the offence of sedition is not made against Imam.

The Delhi Court Monday continued hearing the bail application filed by Sharjeel Imam in relation to the speeches made by him in Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia area in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Live Law reported.

It has been 18 months since Sharjeel Imam was arrested for taking part in protests against the proposed NRC and CAA and charged under draconian UAPA and sedition laws.

The lawyer emphasized that the speech was made amid a group of scholars as part of an “intellectual debate” and Imam cannot be prosecuted merely for holding a viewpoint which is different from that of the Government.

“Critical elements in our society are also necessary because in a society where criticism will die, the society will die. That is why, ultimately, the flag to uphold the constitution in a democracy securely lies in your honours’ hands… Courageous men in this country will not be slapped with sedition. This is what our solemn duty is. Sharjeel Imam’s view is not hostile,” Live Law quotes Imam’s lawyer as saying.

Mir told the court that in terms of settled principle of law, speech has to be looked up in its entirety.

“Per se protest against NRC CAA, by no stretch of imagination, in a democracy that we have in India, can be termed as seditious. When Sharjeel Imam says that this piece of legislation is per se unconstitutional, prejudicial to one community in India, and he seeks the government to take back and rethink and says if you don’t do it, we will be on streets. He can’t be hammered with sedition,” Advocate Tanvir Ahmad Mir, appearing for Imam, said.

Judge Rawat asked: “If you’re looking at any speech, there is a viewpoint. There is nothing in law that a particular point should not be allowed. That point is taken, but will it make a difference if the speech is delivered in public, a hall or privately? Will these factors make a difference.”

Imam’s lawyer said the charge of sedition has to be applied in a proper manner. “For instance, if a speech that incites violence is given behind closed doors and then shared on a public domain, it will certainly lead to indictment,” he said.

Mir also argued that Sharjeel is not a member of any banned organisation or a terrorist gang but only a student.

The prosecution will rebut Imam’s arguments on September 1 and 2, according to Indian Express.