Sharjeel Imam accuses Delhi Police of hollow arguments, says government criticism important

The PhD student was arrested last year on sedition and terrorism charges in connection with his speeches against CAA

Delhi CourtImage

A Delhi court took note of the submissions made by JNU PhD scholar Sharjeel Imam, who has been booked for sedition for his alleged provocative speeches at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Millia Islamia University against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019. He has also been booked under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly conspiring to unleash communal violence in Delhi in February 2020.  

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir for Imam argued that he has been implicated only because he has been critical of the government and its policies. He referred to the argument made by Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad on September 1, where he stated that he started his speech with “As-salamu alaykum” (a common way of greeting in the Muslim community) which means that the speech was meant for only one particular community. “The fact that the address starts from As-salamu alaykum itself states that the speech is addressed to a particular community. The tone and tenor are kept in fine balance,” he said as per a SabrangIndia report.

To this, Advocate Mir argued, “As a student of Aligarh Muslim University, one understands that being a minority institution, students of a particular community would dominate the institution, so what is wrong with beginning his speech with As-salamu alaykum?”

He alleged that the prosecution (Delhi Police) has indulged in only “hollow arguments” and are trying to build a case casually, rather than substantially trying to prove that Sharjeel’s speech was in the teeth of Kedarnath judgment. In the Kedarnath case, the supreme court had held that unless accompanied by an incitement or call for violence, criticism of the government cannot be called sedition.

Mir submitted, “The other day, there was a call for Bharat Bandh and farmers protest. Will we call for sedition in all those cases? Asking rail roko, block the roads etc, is that a constitutional means of protest or not? We will have to say yes… At the end of the day, if you’re critical of the government, it cannot be the cause of sedition which unfortunately it is now.”

He further submitted that the entire case is built on some TV channels’ rhetoric since they have different objectives to “sell advertisements”. He added, “why did the Chief Justice of India also recently ask whether we need the sedition law? The provision says disaffection. Why does the government need our affection? Only monarchs need affection. This country is a democracy, it is the constitutional values we have developed for 60 years that we need to protect now through Sharjeel’s case.”

Tanveer Mir argued that in the entire speech, there are about 20 instances where Sharjeel said to not resort to violence. “How has the prosecution overlooked these statements?”, said Mir. He posed a question to the court by saying, “Are we turning into a totalitarian state? If a government is not criticised, it will turn into a monarchy. Every citizen should criticise the government.”

On the other hand, Special Public Prosecutor, Amit Prasad opposed the argument and said that the fundamental right to protest cannot go beyond an extent which causes disruption in a person’s daily life. Prasad also referred to the chargesheet against him and pointed out the fact that immediately after his speech, there were various violent activities that broke out in the National Capital.

He further alleged that Sharjeel gave the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 “a secular colour” which it otherwise did not have. Prasad submitted that his intention was to block the roads and create anarchy. 

The bail matter has now been posted on October 23 in order to take the written submissions on record.


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