A Delhi court on Monday extended the custody of Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam by three days, PTI reported. Imam has been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in a case related to the communal violence in Delhi in February. On Monday, Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat granted the police custody for effective interrogation.

“The investigation in the present case of conspiracy for Delhi riots which took place in Delhi is continuing,” the judge said in his order. “The custodial interrogation has been sought of the accused Sharjeel Imam for confronting the material that has come during the investigation after his responses in the police custody remand. In order to have an effective and proper investigation, I deem it fit to allow the present application for seeking police custody remand of the accused Sharjeel Imam. However, it is granted only for a period of three days and not seven days as sought.”

Rawat added that Imam should be medically examined every 24 hours. He also directed that Imam’s counsel could speak to him for not more than half an hour at the beginning of the police custody. “The concerned police officials shall ensure that they remain outside the audible range during the said period,” he said. “Needless to state that the accused [Imam] and his counsel shall follow the necessary distancing protocols in view of the outbreak of Covid-19.”

The judge said after the police remand of Imam is over, he should be handed over to the jail superintendent.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the state, told the court that Imam was not cooperating in the investigation. Prasad claimed that Imam had given evasive replies to some questions, and now the investigating officer in the case wanted to confront him with some material. Prasad claimed that the investigation was necessary to unearth the “deep-rooted conspiracy” and to obtain “clinching evidence” to bring the other alleged conspirators of the violence to justice.

Advocate Surbhi Dhar, appearing for Imam, opposed the custody application, saying that whatever questions were to be asked have already been answered.

Cases against Imam

The Delhi Police arrested Sharjeel Imam under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act on August 25 for his alleged role in inciting the February violence.

Imam has already been booked for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches against Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens in December last year and charged under the UAPA in April. Last month, the police had filed a chargesheet before a court in Delhi, accusing him of sedition. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory had also said that Imam’s voice appears to match the one in the video clips that show him delivering allegedly seditious speeches on the campuses of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi on December 13 and Aligarh Muslim University on January 16.

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”.

In the chargesheet against Imam, the police attached photocopies of transcripts of several of his speeches. In one of the speeches, delivered in Asansol on January 22, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student allegedly asked Muslims to protest because they lacked adequate representation in Parliament, the courts, the Indian Army or the police. In another speech, he allegedly asked people not to believe in the Constitution, which he called a “fascist document”.

The PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies was brought back to Delhi from Assam on August 23 on production warrant. He had also tested positive for the coronavirus. He was arrested from his hometown Jehanabad district in Bihar on January 28.

Delhi violence and the investigation

Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the new citizenship law and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst in Delhi since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

In multiple chargesheets filed in June, the police had claimed the violence in Delhi was a result of a conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. They alleged that people who had organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were the conspirators. However, the police have failed to produce video evidence so far.