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Delhi High Court directs Delhi Police to file status report on bail plea of JNU student Sharjeel Imam

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Delhi Police on a petition filed by JNU student Sharjeel Imam, challenging the Trial Court’s order denying him bail in a case pertaining to alleged hate speeches made by him against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta, while issuing notice, called for a Status Report from the Delhi Police and slated the matter for next hearing on March 24.

Imam was initially charged under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 153B (making imputation prejudicial to national integration) and 505(2) (promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes by making statements conducing to public mischief)) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, in relation to a First Information Report registered by the Delhi Police in the year 2020 for delivering hate speeches at Jamia Millia Islamia and at Aligarh Muslim University. However,later on, Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967, was added.

During the course of hearing, Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, representing Imam, submitted that the instant FIR has been registered by picking out certain portion from the alleged speech in order to portray that he was intending to spread hatred.

The Bench directed the State to file its response, citing why he should not be enlarged on bail.

“In bails pertaining to the IPC, the Court is loath to permit detention unless there are compelling circumstances prior to conviction. For pre-conviction detention, there have to be compelling reasons for us to detain,” the Bench orally remarked.

The instant petition has been filed on behalf of Imam by Advocates Ahmad Ibrahim, Talib Mustafa and Kartik Venu seeking setting aside of the January 24 order passed by a Special Court in the national capital refusing to grant him bail in the instant case.

It was alleged in the petition that his bail application has been wrongly dismissed by the Special Court after relying on incorrect proposition of law.

“The Special Court failed to appreciate that in cases where substantive penal offences do not place any embargo on the power of the Court in deciding a bail application, then merely by virtue of the fact that the Court of Sessions having been designated as a ‘Special Court’ under the NIA Act shall not prejudice the right of an accused to his liberty. It remains a trite law that penal provisions, if can be construed in two ways, must be construed in a way favoring the accused,” the plea read.

The petitioner has averred that-
“The Courts have wrongly held that the additional/special powers conferred upon the Special Court to take cognizance of the offences and having power to order for summary trail in certain offences as are available to a Court of original criminal jurisdiction and as such they limit the Special Court’s power, which otherwise is a Court of Sessions, and make it a Magisterial Court for the purpose of grant of regular bail as well.”

It was further alleged in the petition that the ‘criticism of the Indian Constitutional Principles i.e., Secularism and Democracy as it is there in the present form cannot be alleged to having being said to spread disaffection against the Government’.
“The prosecution has tried to create a narrative of communalism and religious extremism around the Appellant Sharjeel Imam by conflating purported discussion of issues affecting a particular religious community,” the plea contended.

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