The speeches made by activist Sharjeel Imam during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019 and January 2020 show on a prima facie basis that they had a tendency to create public disorder and incite violence, a Delhi court has said.
A sessions court in the national Capital had framed charges against Imam on Monday for making allegedly inflammatory speeches during the anti-CAA protests. The detailed order was made available on Tuesday.
The case against Imam pertains to four speeches he made in Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, Bihar’s Gaya city and in West Bengal’s Asansol. He has been charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including sedition.
In his order, Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat observed that the apparent reason for making the speeches was the matters related to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, but Imam had made references to several other incidents that needed to be explained in the course of trial.
“Speech also appears to challenge the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India,” the court said in its order on framing charges against the activist. “It also appears to create hatred/contempt for the lawful institutions of the state and to challenge them by unlawful means.”
In his speeches, Imam had purportedly asked the protestors to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated Chicken’s Neck”. The comment was widely perceived as secessionist, but Imam had later claimed that he had called for peaceful protests to “block roads going to Assam” – “basically a call for chakka jam”.
However, the court held that by making the statement, Imam was trying to intentionally incite and provoke the Muslim community to act against the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of India.
The court said that through his speeches, Imam was urging Muslims to come together to disrupt rule of law, cause countrywide social disorder and chakka jam with “malafide intention” to disrupt public utilities and essential commodities services.
The order also said that Imam appeared to be trying to convince Muslims that they have been deprived because of the Constitution and the people who are required to protect it.
“He further challenged the sanctity of the Constitution of India and misguided Muslim people to believe that it has been drafted by Pandits of India i.e. person of other community which is apparent imputation and assertion prejudicial to national integration and harmony,” the order said.
The order said that even as Imam had claimed that whatever he had said were related to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, the content of his speech showed these matters were used only as a ploy.
“He is factually attempting to bring a complete anarchy by way of his speeches and published material,” it said.
Citing the chargesheet against Imam pertaining to violence in parts of Delhi following his speeches, the court asserted that the violence were a result of his speeches.
“The accused has made utterances not just once but many times over,” it said. “It is not as if the words are spelt out in a moment of haste or anger or antagonism without intending it.”
The court said it was correct to say that Imam has criticised every government institution, the Constitution and the ideas of democracy and secularism through his speeches.
“The accused in his speeches has made vituperative utterances against even the Father of the Nation,” it said. “He seems to be skeptical of the ideas of secularism and democracy that has come about post Constitution.”