Reading time: 8-10 minutes.
Amid the scourge of the raging pandemic wrecking the lives and livelihood indiscriminately comes the news of issuing notice in Imam’s plea for default bail. Time was given to police beyond 90 days given in the statute, to complete the probe in the matter. Due to the pandemic, the situation was worsened and the investigation in the matter was hampered. Imam was alleged to have passed incendiary harangue in the protest of Anti- Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (hereinafter referred to as “CAA”) and Anti-National Register of Citizens (hereinafter referred to as “NRC”).
Facts of the Issue
Shahjreel Imama, a former student of JNU was arrested on 28th January 2019 for the violent protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, held near Jamia Millia Islamia University in December 2019. He was booked by the police for his allegedly seditious speeches during the protest against CAA and NRC. The FIR was under Sections 124-A (Sedition); 153-A (Promoting enmity between classes) and 505 (statement conducing of public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. The case was registered at New Delhi Police Station relating to the alleged inflammatory speeches given by Imam and allegedly provoking a specific religion to distort access to North Eastern region of India from the rest of India.
Afterwards, it was alleged that Imam was involved in organizing the protest at Shaheen Bagh, which later into the glare of publicity after a video demonstrating him making controversial comments before a gathering at Aligarh Muslim University surfaced on the internet. He wasl arrested soon after for the same, under sedition. Another case was also filed against him in Assam under the rigid Anti-Terror law for his statement in relation to Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Assam. Later, he was arrested in Jehanabad district in Bihar.
Imam approached the Delhi High Court, against the order of the Trial Court giving more time to police for concluding the investigation. On April 25 the trial court passed the order to grant three more months beyond the statutory 90 days for the completion of the investigation under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The same was challenged by the accused in the Delhi High Court. Imam also requested for bail on the very ground that the investigation was not completed within the statutory period of 90 days and no notice was given to him when the police filed request for the more time to conclude the investigation. The Court dismissed this plea.
Legal Provisions Involved
The Trial Court, along with setting aside the order also allowed the Delhi Police to thoroughly investigate the alleged commission under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Section 43D (2) of UAPA Act was invoked which makes it discretionary upon the Court to allow the Police an extended period of time for completion of the investigation upon being satisfied by the reasons of the Police.
Section 13 of UAPA Act provides for the punishment for unlawful activities, to be imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, alongwith imposition of fine.
Besides the UAPA, other provisions of the IPC were also invoked. These were:
- Section 124-A of IPC for sedition;
- Section 153 A of IPC (promoting enmity between classes); and
- Section 505 of IPC (statements conducing to public mischief).
This matter took an entirely different turn when the Delhi High Court issued notice to Imam’s plea seeking bail under section Section 167(2) of the CrPC, 1973. The petition led the order of the trial court to be set aside and allowed the Delhi Police to probe the petitioner for alleged commission of offence under the UAP Act. This Act allows investigation for 180 days only. Petitioner had contended that the invocation of UAP Act on 88th day of the custody was with the sole intention to curb his liberty by depriving him of right to the statutory bail after custody of 90 days in terms of section 167(2) of CrPC.
It was also pointed out in the order that by giving time to Delhi Police to carry out probe under the Act was devoid of the essential requirement under Section 43D(2) of the Act. It was also alleged that neither was the Petitioner given any notice under the respective section nor any report was given by the Public Prosecutor. It was further contended that the application for extension of time was devoid of the genuine “compelling reason” that are required to be disclosed for extension of probe time beyond 90 days.
This case is one case of sedition which has played a critical role in establishing the procedure for investigation to the followed under the UAPA. Student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Sharjeel Imam arrested under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for arousing a specific religious community to muss the imperium of the country. Speeches given by the petitioner were allegedly seditious in nature, which caused serious community strife and promoted animosity between various religious groups. By way of his alleged harangue, he burgeoned falsity of genocide in Assam. Petitioner became the eye of the storm for his “inflammatory” speech in Delhi over Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens and subsequently at Aligarh University where he threatened to “cut off” Assam and other parts of Northeast India from the country.
Author: Bhavyanshi from Symbiosis Law School, Noida.
Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India