The Delhi High Court Friday allowed urgent listing of a plea by the city police challenging a trial court’s order discharging 11 people, including student activists Sharjeel Imam and Asif Iqbal Tanha, in the 2019 Jamia Nagar violence case.
The plea was mentioned by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta before a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad which allowed it to be listed for hearing on February 13.
The law officer said the court registry has raised certain objections in the petition.
The petition by police was filed on February 7 challenging the trial court’s February 4 order discharging 11 persons, holding that they were made “scapegoats” by police and that dissent has to be encouraged, not stifled.
The trial court, however, ordered framing of charges against one of the accused, Mohammad Ilyas.
An FIR was lodged in connection with the violence that erupted after a clash between police and people protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in the Jamia Nagar area here in December 2019.
Imam was accused of instigating the riots by delivering a provocative speech at the Jamia Milia University on December 13, 2019. He will continue to remain in jail as he is an accused in the larger conspiracy case of the 2020 northeast Delhi riots.
The trial court had said there were admittedly scores of protesters at the site and some anti-social elements within the crowd could have created an environment of disruption and havoc.
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“However, the moot question remains — whether the accused persons herein were even prima facie complicit in taking part in that mayhem? The answer is an unequivocal no,” it had added.
Noting that the accused were merely present at the protest site and there was no incriminating evidence against them, the trial court had said dissent is an extension of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, subject to reasonable restrictions.
It had said investigative agencies need to discern the difference between dissent, which has to be given space, and insurrection that should be quelled.
It had also faulted the police for failing to produce any WhatsApp chats, SMS or other proof of the accused interacting with each other and criticised it for “arbitrarily” choosing to array some people from the crowd as accused and police witnesses, saying this “cherry-picking” by the police is detrimental to the precept of fairness.
The Jamia Nagar police station had filed the charge sheet against Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar, Mohammad Qasim, Mahmood Anwar, Shahzar Raza Khan, Mohammad Abuzar, Mohammad Shoaib, Umair Ahmad, Bilal Nadeem, Chanda Yadav and Mohammad Ilyas.
The charge sheet was filed under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
The charge sheet also included provisions of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.