A Delhi trial court judge who discharged activist Sharjeel Imam and ten others in connection with the 2019 violence at the city’s Jamia Millia Islamia University on Friday recused himself from hearing a similar case, Live Law reported.
Additional Sessions Judge Arul Varma of the Saket district court, citing personal reasons, requested that the case be transferred to another judge. The principal district and sessions judge at the Saket court will decide on the transfer of the case on February 13.
Violence had erupted on the Jamia Millia Islamia campus on December 15, 2019, during student protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Delhi Police was accused of barging into the university campus and using excessive force to quell the demonstrations. The police claimed its action was justified as the protestors had allegedly injured its personnel and set buses on fire.
Apart from Imam, Varma on February 4 discharged activists Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha and eight others from the case. In his order, the judge said that the Delhi Police roped in the activists as scapegoats as they were unable to apprehend the actual perpetrators.
The judge added that there was no prima facie evidence that the accused persons were part of the mob violence, had any weapon, or were throwing stones.
Varma in his order also referred to Article 19 of the Constitution of India, and said, “Dissent is nothing but an extension of invaluable fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. It is therefore a right which we are sworn to uphold.”
The liberty of protesting citizens should not have been lightly interfered with, the court said while stating that the prosecution appeared to have been launched in a “perfunctory and cavalier fashion” against the accused persons.
However, the Delhi Police has challenged the order in the Delhi High Court, saying the trial court was “swayed by emotional and sentimental feelings” while discharging the accused persons.
The police argued that the trial court failed to consider the evidence on record and proceeded to discharge the accused at the stage of framing of charges.
The police’s petition will be heard by Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma on February 13.