Sharjeel Imam

A Delhi court has rejected the bail plea of Jawaharlal Nehru University student and activist Sharjeel Imam.

The Court dismissed Imam’s bail plea in a case related to alleged inflammatory and instigating speeches during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think; Words are secondary; Thoughts live; they travel far,” Additional Sessions Judge, Saket court, Anuj Aggarwal said in its order, citing Swami Vivekananda.

“…suffice it would be to observe that a cursory and plain reading of the speech dated December 13, 2019 reveals that same is clearly on communal/divisive lines. In my view, the tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tend to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquility, peace and harmony of the society,” the order read, referring to the alleged inflammatory speech given by Imam at Jamia Milia Islamia area on December 13, 2019.

The judge, however, at this stage, refused to comment if the speech falls under the ambit of Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code, saying that the same requires deeper analysis.

“Thus in view of the settled position of law, the issue whether the said speech would fall within the ambit of 124A IPC or not, requires a deeper analysis at an appropriate stage,” the order read.

The court further said that the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression cannot be exercised at the cost of communal peace and harmony of the society.

The fundamental right of ‘freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under Article 19 has been placed upon a very high pedestal in the constitution of this country and its essence is well captured in the statement of John Milton, the famous British poet and intellectual who says “give me the liberty to know, to argue freely, and to utter according to conscience, above all liberties”, it said.

“However, the very same Constitution places, reasonable restriction upon the exercise of said right inter alia on the grounds of public order and incitement to offence,” it added.

“….article 51A(e) of the Constitution also casts a fundamental duty upon citizens of this country to promote harmony and spread common brotherhood amongst all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. Therefore, it is no gainsaying that fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression cannot be exercised at the cost of communal peace and harmony of the society,” it added.

Sharjeel Imam was arrested on January 28, 2020, from Bihar for allegedly making a seditious speech and abetting riots in the Jamia Millia Islamia area in December last year.

Sharjeel Imam is presently facing various cases in five states including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi.

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