The Delhi High Court is set to hear the bail plea of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Sharjeel Imam on Monday. The case relates to the 2020 Delhi riots and allegations of sedition against Imam. The high court will hear the case after a lower court dismissed Imam's bail application in January 2022.
Last year, a trial court framed charges against Sharjeel Imam under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity), l53B (imputations prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, and section 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The prosecution alleges that Sharjeel Imam made speeches at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and at the Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019, threatening to cut off Assam and the rest of the northeast from India.
High court to examine trial court's bail rejection order
The Delhi High Court had earlier sought the stand of the city police regarding Imam's bail plea. The court had noted that since section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code had been kept in abeyance following the directions of the Supreme Court, it would have to examine the trial court's bail rejection order while keeping in mind the other sections framed against Imam. The bench had also observed that there was no ground mentioned in the lower court's order rejecting the relief.
Imam's plea before the high court
In his plea before the high court, Imam has argued that the trial court "failed to recognise" that the charge of sedition no longer existed as it had been put on hold by the Supreme Court's directions. He contends that the relief of bail must be granted to him accordingly.
Supreme Court's stay on sedition law
In May 2022, the Supreme Court stayed the registration of FIRs, probes, and coercive measures for the offence of sedition across the country by the Centre and the states until an appropriate forum of the government re-examines the colonial-era penal law. This stay has put a hold on any further action related to the sedition charge against Imam and others facing similar charges.
The outcome of Imam's bail plea before the Delhi High Court will be closely watched, especially in light of the Supreme Court's stay on the sedition law. This case is yet another example of the complexities of legal proceedings in India, where charges of sedition have been widely used to silence dissenting voices.
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