Former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student, Sharjeel Usmani, has reportedly submitted before the Bombay High Court that he will continue cooperating with the Pune Police in connection with the sedition charges invoked against him for his speech at Elgar Parishad. He is scheduled to appear before the police for investigation on March 18, reported LiveLaw.
During the hearing on March 15, Senior Advocate (appearing for Usmani) submitted that Sharjeel had appeared at the Swargate police station for interrogation on March 10 and said he would continue to cooperate with the probe, as guaranteed in the previous hearing. He argued that Sharjeel has not denied the speech at the 2021 Elgar Parishad Conclave, but the question is if it would attract section 153A (promoting enmity between groups) of the Indian Penal Code.
LiveLaw reported that Senior Counsel Mihir Desai argued that, “He has used some harsh words in his speech, words I would not have used. But the speech needs to be seen as a whole.” Justice SS Shinde reportedly read the translated copy of the speech, which starts by Sharjeel saying that he does not have faith in the judiciary and that the country is in a ‘state of war’.
Mihir Desai defended this by arguing, “I started by saying the speech has certain harsh words” and Justice Shinde asserted that the court will be open to criticism. LiveLaw further reported that Desai contended that it may take time for the court to apply its minds to the entire speech and suggested the case be kept for hearing on another date. He said, “Three aspects need to be considered; What is the message sent by the speech? Who it was addressed to? And the context in which it was made.”
According to an IE report, the Division Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale said that it will examine Usmani’s entire speech and recorded the assurance by the state government that no coercive action would be taken against him till the next hearing if he fulfils procedure as per the notice issued to him under the Code of Criminal Procedure and follows the Supreme Court’s guidelines to comply with obligations to the investigators.
The Pune police had registered an FIR against him on February 2, after BJP member Pradip Gavade filed a complaint, under the charge of ‘promoting enmity between different groups’. Another FIR in Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station has been filed at the instance of one Anuraj Singh who had stated that the speech delivered by Usmani propagates hatred against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath.
A month later, Sharjeel Usmani moved the Bombay High Court for quashing the FIR registered against him in Pune on grounds that his speech was not offensive, and was taken “out of context”. His petition submitted before the High Court reads, “The petitioner in his speech has identified a problem in the social construct of this day, and has concluded with a solution to the problem…it is a settled position of law that the effects of that words must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men and not those who scent danger in every hostile point of view.”
The matter has been adjourned to March 22.