The Delhi High Court on Friday rejected Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam’s petition challenging a trial court order granting more time to the police to conclude the investigation in a case related to allegedly making inflammatory speeches during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, IANS reported.
A single-judge bench led by Justice V Kameswar Rao also refused to grant default bail in the case. Imam, in his plea, had challenged the April 25 order of the trial court that granted three more months, beyond statutory 90 days, to the police to complete the investigation. The PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the protests.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi and advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the Delhi Police, told the court that investigation has been hampered due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Investigation doesn’t happen through video conferencing,” Lekhi argued. “The seizures, searches, movement, almost every part of the probe has been hit badly due to the pandemic.”
However, advocate Rebecca John, representing Imam, said the court did not issue any notice regarding the extension of the investigation beyond the statutory period of 90 days, according to LiveLaw. “I got the information by the IO [investigation officer] on WhatsApp at 11 am,” she said. “Court is supposed to look at the report of the public prosecutor. When the IO messaged, that report was not in existence.”
She added that Imam was not also produced before the trial court, thereby depriving him of the ability to contest the allegations against him. “There is no parity between them [police] and me, I am the one who suffers consequences,” John said.
The police had, in its earlier affidavit, alleged that Imam was giving inflammatory speeches against the government. “Imam by way of his speeches was addressing a particular religious section of the society and creating disaffection towards government established by the law by creating unfounded fears in their minds regarding CAA and the process of National Register of Citizens, which is yet to be implemented in any manner throughout the country barring Assam,” the affidavit read.
Imam was arrested on January 28 from Bihar’s Jehanabad district in connection with the anti-CAA protests near Jamia Millia Islamia University in December last year. The police had earlier charged Imam with sedition, accusing him of promoting enmity between groups and instigating riots.
The Patiala House Court dismissed the bail application filed by him, saying that it is bereft of merit.
In a clip on social media, Imam was purportedly heard telling 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”.