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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Delhi court dismisses Sharjeel Imam’s bail plea in 2019 Jamia rioting case

The contents of his speech "tend to have a debilitating effect on the communal peace and harmony", observed the court.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: October 23, 2021 1:50:39 am
Sharjeel Imam (File Photo)

A Delhi court in its order dismissing the bail plea of JNU student Sharjeel Imam, arrested for allegedly making inflammatory speeches and inciting violence in Jamia Nagar in 2019, observed that the evidence that rioters were incited by his speech and indulged in acts of rioting “is scanty and sketchy”. It said the prosecution version can’t be built on “imaginative thinking”, and once this is removed, it “appears to be crumbling like a house of cards”.

On December 15, 2019, a mob comprising over 3,000 people attacked police and torched several vehicles in Jamia Nagar during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The prosecution had claimed the mob was instigated by Imam’s speeches against CAA-NRC outside Jamia Millia Islamia.

Additional Sessions Judge Anuj Aggarwal, in his order, also stated a “cursory and plain reading of the speech dated 13.12.2019 reveals that the same is clearly on communal/divisive lines”. “In my view, the tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tends to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquility, peace and harmony of society,” the court said.

It further said the theory of rioters being incited by his speech as propounded by the investigating agency “leaves gaping holes…”

“Neither any eyewitness has been cited by prosecution nor there is any other evidence on record to suggest that co-accused got instigated and committed the alleged act of rioting etc, upon hearing the speech of applicant/ accused Sharjeel Imam. Further, there is no evidence corroborating version of prosecution that alleged rioters/co-accused were a part of the audience addressed by applicant/accused Sharjeel Imam on 13.12.2019,” the order read.

“In either case, it is not legally permissible to build the edifice of the prosecution version upon the foundation of imagination or upon inadmissible confession before a police officer. Once the legally impermissible foundation of imaginative thinking and disclosure statement of accused/co-accused is removed, the prosecution version on this count appears to be crumbling like a house of cards,” the court said.

ASJ Aggarwal quoted English poet John Milton — “give me the liberty to know, to argue freely, and to utter according to conscience, above all liberties and harmony of the society” — to make the point that the “fundamental right of ‘freedom of speech and expression’ as enshrined under Article 19 has been placed upon a very high pedestal in the Constitution of this country”.

The court, however, held that the fundamental right of “freedom of speech and expression” cannot be exercised at the cost of communal peace and harmony of the society.

The judge also quoted Swami Vivekananda in the bail order: “We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think; Words are secondary; Thoughts live; they travel far”.

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