The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked a trial court to decide by February 17 on the statutory bail application of activist Sharjeel Imam in a sedition case, Bar and Bench reported.

Imam, a former scholar at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, is eligible for statutory bail as he has spent four years in jail, out of the maximum sentence of seven years in the sedition case.

If denied bail by the trial court, the bench said Imam can file a fresh application in the High Court.

The case pertains to alleged seditious speeches made by Imam at the Jamia Millia Islamia university in 2019 and the Aligarh Muslim University in 2020 during protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

The police have alleged that in his speech at the Aligarh Muslim University in 2020, Imam had asked those protesting against the amended citizenship law to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated chicken’s neck”.

The so-called chicken’s neck, or the Siliguri corridor, refers to a very narrow track of land around Siliguri city in West Bengal that connects India’s North East to the rest of the country.

Imam’s lawyers have argued that the statement was a way of calling for a chakka jam, or blockading of a road as a form of protest.

The prosecution also claimed that Imam’s speech at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university in 2019 was divisive.

In July 2022, a trial court rejected Imam’s plea for interim bail in the sedition case.

Imam was arrested in January 2020 and has been in jail since then in multiple cases, including the Delhi riots case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.