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SC clarifies observations made on Sharjeel Imam in HC verdict on Umar Khalid will not prejudice former’s case

A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka, which was hearing Imam's plea, said one of the paragraphs in the verdict clarified "nothing stated hereinabove shall tantamount to an expression of any opinion on the merits of the case".

During the hearing before the top court, the counsel appearing for Imam told the bench they are constrained to move the apex court as serious prejudice would be caused to the petitioner due to the observations made by the high court in the order denying bail to one of the co-accused in the case. (File)

The Supreme Court on Friday clarified the observations made in respect of JNU student Sharjeel Imam in the Delhi High Court verdict, which rejected the bail plea of co-accused Umar Khalid in a case of alleged conspiracy behind the February 2020 riots in northeast Delhi, will not prejudice his case pending before the court.

A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka, which was hearing Imam’s plea concerning the remarks made against him in the October 18 judgement of the high court, said one of the paragraphs in the verdict clarified “nothing stated hereinabove shall tantamount to an expression of any opinion on the merits of the case”.

“This happens when people argue bail applications like it is an appeal on merits,” Justice Kaul observed, adding that bail applications should not be argued for over 10 minutes.

In its verdict rejecting former JNU student Khalid’s plea seeking bail, the high court had said he was in constant touch with other co-accused and allegations against him were prima facie true.

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“….having carefully gone through the charge-sheet and taking into consideration the fact that the appellant (Khalid) was in constant touch with other co-accused persons, including Sharjeel Imam, who arguably is at the head of the conspiracy; at this stage, it is difficult to form an opinion that there are not reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the petitioner is prima facie not proved,” the high court had said in its verdict.

During the hearing before the top court, the counsel appearing for Imam told the bench they are constrained to move the apex court as serious prejudice would be caused to the petitioner due to the observations made by the high court in the order denying bail to one of the co-accused in the case.

“We have noticed that in paragraph 68 of the judgement, the division bench of the high court has clarified that the observations shall not tantamount to an expression of any opinion on the merits of the case,” the bench said.

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“We clarify that any observations made in respect to the petitioner (Imam) will not prejudice the petitioner…,” the top court said.

Justice Kaul observed he finds it complete wastage of time when hearing on bail applications goes on and on. Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and several others have been booked under the anti-terror law the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the “masterminds” of the February 2020 riots, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

First published on: 09-12-2022 at 15:58 IST
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