Mumbai: Appear before cops on Wednesday, Bombay HC tells activist Sharjeel Usmani

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked activist Sharjeel Usmani to appear before Pune police for questioning in connection with an FIR lodged against him for hate speech at the Elgar Parishad conclave held this year.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale asked the police not to take any coercive action against Usmani till March 16 when the court will hear his plea seeking to quash the case.

Usmani's counsel Mihir Desai on Tuesday told the court his client had been summoned by the police on Wednesday.

"He is willing to appear for questioning but he should not be arrested," Desai said.

The court then asked Usmani to appear before police on Wednesday and asked Additional Public Prosecutor J P Yagnik to inform police to not take any coercive action against Usmani till March 16.

The HC also directed Usmani to implead the complainant in the case as a respondent to the petition.

An FIR was registered on February 2, 2021, against Usmani (23), an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University, by the Swargate police station in Pune under section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race and so on.

The FIR was lodged based on a complaint by one Pradeep Gawade against Usmani for alleged offensive statements against the 'Hindu community', 'Indian Judiciary' and 'Parliament' during the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on January 30, 2021.

Usmani has sought for the FIR to be quashed, claiming there was no disharmony or violence at the conclave before or after his speech.

"The FIR is frivolous, baseless and was registered on the basis of certain select statements taken out of context from the speech of the petitioner. The petitioner in his speech has only identified a problem in the social construct of this day and has concluded with a solution to that problem," the plea said.

It added that the speech in totality appeals for a combat against the hatred in the society without any ill will or enmity against any religion, caste or community.

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