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Allahabad HC grants bail to Sharjeel Imam in case of anti-national speeches at AMU

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The Allahabad High Court has granted bail to Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam, who is accused of making anti-national and inflammatory speeches during the anti-CAA protest at Aligarh Muslim University.

A single-judge bench of Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh passed this order while hearing a Criminal Misc Bail Application filed by Sharjeel Imam.

The bail application has been filed on behalf of Imam with a prayer to release him on bail in Case under Sections -124A, 153A, 153B and 505(2) IPC, Police Station Civil Lines, District Aligarh, during pendency of trial.

The counsel for the applicant submitted that the applicant is accused of offences under Sections 124A, 153A, 153B and 505(2) IPC and against FIR lodged on January 25, 2020, the applicant is in confinement since September 18, 2020.

A.K. Sand, Additional Government Advocate I, said the applicant has not been under custody for the said period in this case alone. Earlier, he was confined in another case. As to criminal history, besides four other FIRs lodged arising out of the contents of the same speech delivered by the applicant on October 16, 2020, two other cases, Police Station-Crime Branch, Delhi and 242 of 2019, Police Station-New Friends Colony, Delhi, involving offences under Sections-302 and 307 IPC are also stated to be pending against the applicant.

Chargesheet has already been submitted, however, trial has yet not commenced.

On prima facie basis, only for purpose of grant of bail, it has been submitted by counsel for the applicant, in the first place ingredients of offence are not made out, inasmuch as, the applicant had not exhorted the listeners to take up arms or to engage in any violent act as may have threatened the integrity and unity of the country or to commit any act of hatred against any community.

Also, it is submitted by the counsel for the petitioner there is no material on the case diary as may suggest that the words spoken by the applicant had any effect on any of the listeners.

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Though the speech was delivered on January 16, 2020 and the FIR was lodged nine days thereafter, no incident occurred that may be read as evidence in support of the effect caused by the applicant’s speech. There is absolutely no evidence as to that.

Second, it has been submitted, the FIR could not have been registered except with prior sanction obtained under Section 196 CrPC.

Third, it has been submitted that the FIR was lodged on an afterthought with a delay of nine days. Last, it has been submitted that multiple FIRs were lodged against the applicant arising from the same occurrence.

Opposing the bail application, the Additional Advocate General submitted that the content of the FIR clearly brings out all ingredients of offences under Sections-124A, 153A, 156, 153B and 505(2) IPC. Heavy reliance has also been placed on the criminal history of the applicant involving similar cases and also involving cases of heinous offences including offences under Section 302 IPC. Further, reference has been made to the antecedent of the applicant in habitually engaging in such illegal activities prior and after the occurrence.

Additional Advocate General said that the applicant may not be released on bail as he is likely to endanger public order by violating the bail terms.

“Having heard counsel for the parties and having perused the record, without referring to the exact allegation made against the applicant, it may be noted that on an undisputed basis neither the applicant called any one to bear arms nor any violence was incited as a result of the speech delivered by the applicant. The exact imputations made and the effect prompted by the applicant by words uttered or gestures made etc. may remain to be examined at the trial which is yet to commence. Inasmuch as the applicant has remained confined for more than one year and two months against a maximum punishment that he may suffer on conviction being three years, for that reason alone the applicant has become entitled to bail, at this stage, in the undisputed facts of the case,”

-the court observed.

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The Court said that the other ground being pressed by counsel for the applicant may not be accepted. The bar created by Section 196 CrPC is as to cognizance and not registration of an FIR for a cognizable offence. As to the delay, the same is for nine days. Without drawing any final conclusion as to the same the matter is left to be examined by the trial court. For the purpose of grant of bail, the same is not considered to be relevant in the entirety of the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Court further observed,

“As to this being the second FIR lodged against the applicant, Additional  Advocate General has informed that the applicant has himself applied before the Supreme Court for consolidation of all five cases. Therefore, the said issue also falls outside the scope of proceeding.”

“In any case, the speech having been inside the State of UP and the FIR having been registered with respect to that occurrence at Aligarh, no fundamental jurisdictional defect is shown in the registration of the instant case.

“Last, as to the criminal history of the applicant, the same may remain to be considered in appropriate cases. However, at present, considering the period of detention undergone, in the context of the fact allegation made, the same may not deprive the applicant of bail.

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The Court ordered, “In view of the above, without expressing any opinion on the final merits of the case, let the applicant involved in the aforesaid crime be released on bail, on his furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 with two sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned, with the following conditions:-

(i) The applicant shall not tamper with the prosecution evidence by intimidating/pressuring the witness, during the investigation or trial.

(ii) The applicant shall cooperate in the trial sincerely without seeking any adjournment.

(iii) The applicant shall not indulge in any criminal activity or commission of any crime after being released on bail.

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