HC asks Trial Court to Decide by next Month Sharjeel Imam’s Bail Plea in Sedition Case

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the trial court to decide by next month a plea by student activist Sharjeel Imam seeking bail in connection with a 2020 communal riots case involving allegations of sedition and unlawful activities.

A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain was informed by the counsel for Imam that his plea before the trial court is listed in February.

“In view of the above, we direct the trial court to decide and pronounce the judgement on the application within 10 days from the next date of hearing (in the trial court),” the bench said.

The matter is listed before the trial court on February 7.

Imam has sought bail under section 436A of the CrPC on the grounds that he has been in custody for the last four years and the maximum sentence for the offence under section 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is seven years, if convicted.

He said he has undergone more than half of the maximum sentence prescribed for the offence and is entitled for bail under the provision.

According to Section 436-A CrPC, a person can be released from custody if he has spent more than half of the maximum sentence prescribed for the offence.

The high court, while disposing of Imam’s plea challenging a trial court’s January 24, 2022 order denying him bail, said if he is granted bail by the lower court under section 436-A of the IPC, that will end of the matter.

If he is denied bail, he has a right to file an appeal of the grounds already mentioned in the plea or any other ground, it said.

During the hearing, Imam’s counsel informed the court that there are a total of 43 prosecution witnesses in the case, out of which 22 have been examined till now.

The high court had earlier said since section 124A (sedition) of the IPC has been kept in abeyance on the directions of the Supreme Court, it will have to examine the trial court’s bail rejection order while keeping in mind the other penal sections applied against Imam.

In 2022, the trial court had framed charges against Imam under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity), l53B (Imputations prejudicial to national integration), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) of IPC and Section 13 (Punishment for Unlawful Activities) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

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

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Imam was booked in the case registered by Delhi Police’s Special Branch. While the case was initially registered for the offence of sedition, Section 13 of UAPA was invoked later. He has been custody in the case since January 28, 2020.

In his petition before the high court, Imam has said the trial court “failed to recognise” that pursuant to the directions of the top court, the basis for dismissal of his earlier bail plea- the charge of sedition- no longer existed and therefore relief must be granted to him.

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.

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