The Allahabad High Court on Saturday granted bail to activist Sharjeel Imam in connection with a case filed against him for a speech he gave at the Aligarh Muslim University in January 2019, during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, his family and lawyer told Scroll.in.
In his speech, Imam had purportedly asked protestors to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated Chicken’s Neck”.
The comment was widely perceived as secessionist, but Imam later claimed that he had called for peaceful protests to “block roads going to Assam” – “basically a call for chakka jam”.
A case was filed against Iman in Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh district in January 2020 under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity grounds of religion, race), 153B (making statements provoking breach of peace) and 505(2) (statements made which are alarming, false intention to create disharmony) of the Indian Penal Code.
The police in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh had also filed cases against Imam for the purported comments. The activist got bail in the cases registered in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Imam’s lawyer Talib Mustafa said that multiple FIRs were filed against the activist based on the same speech. Senior counsel Tanveer Ahmed argued for Imam.
He added that Section 124A (sedition) can be invoked only when there is an incitement or call to violence, which was not the case in Imam’s speech
“Rather, there were repeated calls to not indulge in violence and therefore 124A is not made out,” Mustfa said. “Lastly, we also said that one-and-a half-years have gone [since] he has been in custody and he was not really needed for investigation.”
A detailed order on Imam’s bail is yet to be issued.
Iman is presently lodged in Tihar jail in Delhi since he has also been charged in the Delhi riots conspiracy case and the Jamia protest violence case.
The Delhi Police have claimed in the First Information Report that there was a larger conspiracy which led to the violence that erupted in the national capital in February last year, in which 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Imam will not be freed from jail yet but his brother Muzammil said the Allahabad High Court bail is one more step towards his release. “Eventually truth prevails over lies, propaganda and witchhunt,” he told Scroll.in.