On Tuesday, the Supreme Court has issued notice to four state including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in a plea by JNU student Sharjeel Imam who sought to club the FIRs registered against him in those states, for the alleged offenses of sedition and hate speech.
The bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah issued notices to states where the first information reports against Sharjeel Imam were filed and further listed the matter for next hearing after two weeks.
Senior Advocate Sidharth Dave who appeared for Imam referred to how the top court stayed multiple FIRs filed against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for his comments against Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the Palghar lynching case. The court had allowed the consolidation of several FIRs filed against the journalist in various parts of the country and their transfer to Mumbai, where Goswami lives. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta rebutted this submission stating that the issues in Goswami’s case were completely different from the instant case of Imam.
“FIRs in Arnab’s case were cyclostyled. Not in this one” added SG Mehta.
Earlier on 1st May, the court had asked Delhi Police to file a report on the matter. SG Mehta told the court that the report was ready and will be filed by Wednesday.
Around five FIRs have been registered in different states against Sharjeel Imam, a Ph. D. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies, for allegedly “instigating and abetting the Jamia riots, due to his seditious speech on 13th December” and for a speech he made at Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on 15th January. He was arrested by Delhi police’s Crime Branch on 28th January from Jehanabad in Bihar for alleged inflammatory speeches during the protests at Jamia Millia Islamia University against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Imam is currently lodged in Guwahati Jail on charges of sedition and other grave crimes.
Apart from sedition (section 124A of the Indian Penal Code) and hate speech (section 153A of the Indian Penal Code), Imam was booked under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a law aimed at punishing those involved in terrorism and activities intended to bring about the secession of any part of the country.
On 25th April, a Delhi court extended the period of the investigation against Imam under the UAPA from 90 days to 180 days, which means that the detention of Imam gets extended until the period of investigation. Meanwhile, Delhi’s crime branch sought for more time on the ground that anti-coronavirus lockdown had seriously disrupted the pace of the investigation.