Delhi HC seeks police stand on Sharjeel Imam’s plea against addition of sedition in rioting case

The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the stand of the city police on a petition by student activist Sharjeel Imam seeking quashing of a supplementary charge sheet introducing the offence of sedition and hate speech in a criminal case concerning his alleged objectionable speech delivered at Jamia Millia Islamia in December 2019.

Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar issued notice on the petition and granted time to the prosecution to file a status report.

First supplementary charge sheet was filed in the case on April 16, 2020.

Counsel for the petitioner said the challenge to the supplementary charge sheet was to extent of addition of the offences of sedition, whose operation has been stayed by the Supreme Court, and hate speech.

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

The petition has also payed for a direction to the trial court to proceed with the trial in the matter in respect to all the other offences invoked in the case.

The present FIR was based on the violence that took place at Jamia and Mata Mandir Marg on December 15, 2019 for various offences under the Indian Penal Code, including rioting and attempt to commit culpable homicide, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

The case was handed over to the Inter-State Cell, Crime Branch and Imam was arrested on February 17, 2021 based on the disclosure statement of a co-accused who claimed he was instigated to commit the offences after hearing the December 13, 2019 speech by Imam.

The first supplementary charge sheet added sections 124A (sedition) and 153A (promoting enmity between various groups) of the IPC against Imam.

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

On September 30, 2022, Imam was granted regular bail in the present FIR by the trial court but he continues to remain in jail on account of his custody in other cases.

Imam is facing prosecution in several cases arising from the violence following the anti-CAA protests carried out in the city in December 2019. He is also involved in the UAPA case concerning the “larger conspiracy” behind the riots that broke out in the north-east area of the national capital in February 2020.

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On May 11, 2022, the Supreme Court had stayed till further orders the registration of FIRs, probes, and coercive measures for the offence of sedition across the country by the Centre and the states until an appropriate forum of the government re-examines the colonial-era penal law.

The matter would be heard next on October 18.

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