Delhi High Court Seeks Delhi Police's Stand On Sharjeel Imam's Petition To Quash Supplementary Charge Sheet

The court has issued a notice on his petition, initiating a debate on the legality of multiple criminal proceedings for the same alleged speech.

Sharjeel Imam

In a recent development, student activist Sharjeel Imam has approached the Delhi High Court seeking the dismissal of a supplementary charge sheet that introduced charges of sedition and hate speech against him. The charge sheet was filed in connection with his alleged objectionable speech delivered at Jamia Millia Islamia in December 2019. Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar has issued a notice on the petition and has granted the prosecution time to file a status report.

Imam's counsel argued that the challenge to the supplementary charge sheet was primarily focused on the addition of sedition charges, which have been put on hold by the Supreme Court. They also highlighted that a separate FIR for the same offenses had already been registered by the Delhi Police in relation to two of his speeches during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, including the speech in question. The petitioner has requested the court to direct the trial court to proceed with the trial concerning all the other offenses invoked in the case.

The present FIR against Sharjeel Imam stems from the violence that occurred at Jamia and Mata Mandir Marg on December 15, 2019. The charges include various offenses under the Indian Penal Code, such as rioting, attempt to commit culpable homicide, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

Imam was arrested on February 17, 2021, based on the disclosure statement of a co-accused who claimed to have been instigated by Imam's December 13, 2019 speech. The first supplementary charge sheet added sections 124A (sedition) and 153A (promoting enmity between various groups) of the IPC against him.

The petitioner argues that multiple criminal proceedings on the same incident against an individual are illegal and unconstitutional. They contend that initiating multiple prosecutions for the same alleged speech is a violation of the Constitution.

It is worth noting that Sharjeel Imam was granted regular bail in the present FIR on September 30, 2022, by the trial court. However, he remains in custody due to his involvement in other cases.

Apart from this particular case, Sharjeel Imam is facing prosecution in several other cases arising from the violence following the anti-CAA protests in December 2019. He is also implicated in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) case related to the larger conspiracy behind the riots in the northeast area of the national capital in February 2020.

On May 11, 2022, the Supreme Court stayed the registration of FIRs, probes, and coercive measures for the offense of sedition across the country until further orders. The stay was imposed by the court to allow for a re-examination of the colonial-era penal law by an appropriate forum of the government. The next hearing on this matter is scheduled for October 18.

(With PTI Inputs)