Explained: Sharjeel Imam Granted Bail In Sedition Case, What Transpired So Far

Imam, however, will stay in custody as there are several other cases pending against him.

Sharjeel Imam

Former JNU Student and one of the accused in North East Delhi riots of 2020 Sharjeel Imam was granted bail today by a Delhi court. Imam was charged with sedition for his allegedly provocative speeches during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests that according to the Police incited violence in Jamia Milia Islamia university on December 15, 2019.

He was arrested on January 28, 2020 from Bihar. However, even after his bail in the sedition case, Imam will remain in custody as several other cases are pending against him.

In last October, the trial court observed that the evidences against Imam was not substantive enough to prove that his speech incited the riots. The court also found gaps in the prosecution’s case and said that it could not be filled up with conjectures. Despite the observations he was denied bail on the ground that more time was required to examine whether his speech amounted to sedition under IPC 124A.

Meanwhile in May, 2011, the SC in a landmark judgment had set aside the colonial era sedition law asking the state and central government to not file any further sedition case unless it is re-examined by the court.  

Citing this judgment of the top court, Imam pleaded for relief saying that his case now stands diluted. The trial court heard the bail plea after the Delhi HC gave an order to look into the application as Imam has been in custody for 31 months.

What is Sharjeel’s Background?

Son of former JD(U) leader Akbar Imam, Sharjeel did his Masters in Computer Science from IIT, Bombay. He took up a job soon but being disillusioned left it in 2017 and joined the PhD program in Centre for Historical Studies (CHS), JNU.

A prolific writer Imam used to contribute for different digital and print media. Though he used to be in the leadership position during early days of anti-CAA protest in Jamia Milia Islamia, he came under the police scanner only when a video of him delivering a speech at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) went viral in January, 2020. The speech delivered on December 16, 2019 allegedly claimed to cut off North East from the rest of India through roadblock and other agitational activities.

On the ground of this speech Imam got arrested from his hometown Jehanabad, Bihar. Notably, Imam was though leading the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest, he withdrew from it on January 2 citing the political intervention and the probable threats of violence.

What are the charges slapped against the Activist?

After the video went viral several cases were filed against him in five states- Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi. On January 25, Assam Police pressed against him the anti-terror laws whereas UP Police booked him under sedition and on the charges of promoting enmity among groups. On the same day Manipur police also pressed the case of sedition against him under IPC 124A.

On the very next day, Arunachal Pradesh also slapped a sedition case against him and Delhi police followed the suit registering FIR under IPC Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) besides giving the charge of sedition and promoting religious animosity.

However, this January, the Additional Session Judge of Delhi court Amitabh Rawat charged him with 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc.), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, along with section 13 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

What are the major grounds of defence for Imam?

Firstly, while responding to the allegations that he wanted to divide the country, Imam responded that he only referred to the road blockages that has been a time-tested instrument for agitation in North-Eastern region of the country.

In last October, when his bail plea was rejected by the Delhi’s Saket court, he pleaded that he is not a terrorist and his prosecution was nothing more than a “whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law.”

While persuading the court of his innocence, his counsel Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir told, “He is not a terrorist or associated with some terrorist outfit. He has no criminal antecedents. He does not have any political agenda.” He also emphasised that merely criticising the Government cannot amount to the charges slapped against him in a functioning democracy.