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Jamia violence case: Delhi High Court frames charges against Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Tanha, others

The High Court of Delhi on Tuesday framed charges against former JNU student Sharjeel Imam, activist Safoora Zargar, former student of Jamia Millia Islamia Asif Iqbal Tanha and others in the Jamia violence case under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma passed the verdict on a petition filed by Delhi Police, challenging the trial court order that discharged the accused in the 2019 Jamia violence case.

The High Court observed that the right to peaceful assembly was subject to reasonable restrictions and that acts of violence or ‘violent speeches’ were not protected.

While referring to some of the accused, the High Court observed that prima facie, as seen in the video, the respondents were in the first line of mob. They were raising slogans of ‘Delhi police murdabad’ and violently pushing the barricades.

However, the High Court partially discharged the accused of various other offences. 

The Bench framed charges against Mohd. Abuzar and Mohd. Shoaib under Section 143 of IPC, while discharging them under other offences.

Earlier on March 28, the High Court had reserved its verdict on the appeal by Delhi Police.

The same Bench had reserved its orders after hearing arguments by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Police. 

Senior Advocate Rebecca John, along with Advocates M.R. Shamshad, Talib Mustafa, Sowjhanya Shankaran and others, appeared for the accused.

Delhi Police had challenged the February 4 order passed by Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Arul Verma, which discharged 11 of the 12 accused in the case.

The trial court had discharged Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar, Mohd. Abuzar, Umair Ahmed, Mohd. Shoaib, Mahmood Anwar, Mohd. Qasim, Mohd Bilal Nadeem, Shahzar Raza Khan and Chanda Yadav, while framing charges against Mohd Ilyas in the case related to the incidents of violence that took place at Jamia Milia Islamia University in December, 2019.

Judge Verma had said in his order that marshalling the facts as brought forth from a perusal of the charge sheet and three supplementary charge sheets, this Court cannot but arrive at the conclusion that police were unable to apprehend the actual perpetrators behind commission of the offence, but surely managed to rope the persons herein as scapegoats.

Arguing the case in the High Court, Jain said the trial court order was not sustainable and that the judge held a mini-trial at the stage of framing of charges.

He further said that visualisation or imagination of the trial court that these students who were mere bystanders was completely belied by the videos shown by the Delhi Police

The key issue was joint liability of the accused, which made every member of the unlawful assembly constructively liable, noted Jain.

Lawyers appearing for the respondents contended that most of them were university students, who were exercising their democratic rights and protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

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