Anti-CAA speech: evidence that Sharjeel Imam instigated a mob “scanty and sketchy”, says Delhi court, but denies him bail

A Delhi court Friday refused bail to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Sharjeel Imam in connection with his alleged inflammatory speech about the Citizenship (Amentment) Act (CAA)-National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the national capital in December 2019 even though the court observed that evidence against Imam that his speech instigated the mob to riot and attack the police, was “scanty and sketchy”.

“Neither any eye witness 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”, the Court said.

It added, “the theory as propounded by investigating agency leaves gaping holes which leaves an incomplete picture unless the gaps are filled by resorting to surmises and conjectures or by essentially relying upon the disclosure statement of applicant/accused Sharjeel Iman and co-accused”.

However, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Anuj Agarwal added in so far Imam’s speech is concerned, it fell foul of Sections 124A (sedition) and 153A ( Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and it was clearly on communal/divisive lines.

“In my view, the tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tend to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquility, peace and harmony of the society”, the judge said, denying bail to Imam.

Imam is facing prosecution in multiple FIRs for his speeches in different states. In one of the FIRs, he is also facing charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The present case relates to Imam’s speech in Delhi on December 13, 2019 against which an FIR was registered at Delhi’s New Friends Colony police station. The prosecution alleged Imam was seen instigating a particular religious community against the government by creating unfounded fears in their minds regarding CAA and NRC.

According to the prosecution, speeches delivered by Imam were seditious, communal/divisive in nature and were aimed at promoting enmity between different religions. It alleged that it was on the instigation by Imam that a mob consisting of over 3,000 people attacked police personnel and torched several vehicles in the Jamia Nagar area during a demonstration against the CAA.

The FIR against Imam resulted in a charge-sheet against him for offences under sections 124A/153A. He was also chargesheeted for offences under sections 143/147/148/149/186/353/332/333/307/308/427/435/323/341/ 120B/34 of the IPC, sections 3/4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, and sections 25/27 of the Arms Act, with aid of section 109 IPC for instigating co-accused.

Click here to read the order