New Delhi, October 4
JNU student Sharjeel Imam, arrested for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during the protests against CAA and NRC, on Monday told a Delhi court that he is not a terrorist and his prosecution is a “whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law”.
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat was hearing a case filed against Imam for the alleged speeches given by him at two universities in 2019, where he allegedly threatened to “cut off” Assam and the rest of the Northeast from India.
The alleged inflammatory speeches for which he was arrested were allegedly made at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and at Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019. He is in judicial custody since January 2020.
He was arrested under the provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). A charge of sedition was also slapped against him.
Seeking bail as well as discharge in the case, advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, representing Imam, told the court that being critical of the government cannot be the cause of sedition.
“The essence of the entire prosecution is that you talk against us and sedition is on your way,” Mir said, adding that Imam cannot be allowed to be persecuted just because he was critical of CAA or NRC.
“This prosecution of Sharjeel Imam is more of a whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law. This is not how the government or executive has to respond. At the end of the day, a dispensation will change. Nothing is permanent,” the advocate further said.
Referring to the recent ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the protesting farmers, Imam’s counsel asked, “Will we call for sedition in all those cases? Asking for rail roko, blocking of roads, etc, is that a constitutional means of protest or not?”
He asked will the sedition charges be attracted if farmers say that they want fair prices for the crops or people demand women’s rights.
Mir said it is the duty of every citizen to be critical of the government.
Since when does the government need the affection of people, he asked. “It is only the monarchs, kings who need the affection of people. We are not here to bow down before the government,” the lawyer submitted.
“Unless and until we do not have critical elements in the society, the society will die,” he submitted.
The lawyer said that there were many prosecutions against Imam just because he had criticized the government’s policies.
“He is not a terrorist or associated with some terrorist outfit. He has no criminal antecedents, he does not have any political agenda,” he told the court.
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad said that the fundamental right to protest cannot go beyond an extent that causes problems to the public at large.
He told the court that violent riots took place pursuant to Imam’s speech. “He tried to create anarchy by saying that there is no hope left for the Muslim community and that there is no other way left,” Prasad said, opposing his bail and discharge in the case.
Imam is accused of offenses relating to sedition, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, imputations prejudicial to national integration, and public mischief under the Indian Penal Code, and indulging in unlawful activities under the UAPA.
Delhi Police had filed a charge sheet against Imam in the case, in which it alleged that he allegedly gave speeches inciting hatred, contempt, and disaffection towards the Central Government and instigated the people which led to the violence in December 2019. PTI