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The Delhi High Court today reserved its order in the plea filed by Sharjeel Imam challenging the trial court order granting extension of time for completion of investigation in the sedition case filed against him. (Sharjeel Imam vs State)
Imam was arrested for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during an anti Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest held in December last year.
Arguing that criminal proceedings are not only about the rights of the accused, but also the right of the public, the prosecution today argued that the extension of the investigation deadline could not be interfered with.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi argued that objections pertaining to absence of issuance of notice from the trial court and non-production of Imam from Guwahati were mere technicalities that could not be grounds to set aside the extension.
Apart from challenging the extension of period to complete the investigation, Imam has also sought to be released on default bail. The matter was heard today by a Single Judge Bench of Justice V Kameswar Rao through video conferencing.
Counsel for Sharjeel Imam, Senior Advocate Rebecca John, today argued that the invocation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the Delhi Police on the 88th day of his custody was done with the sole intention of depriving him of theright to statutory bail after 90 days' custody as per Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
It was further submitted that the order was passed by the trial court without even issuing notice to Imam, which was in violation of principles of natural justice.
John acknowledged the receipt of a WhatsApp message from the investigating officer regarding the filing of an application for extension of deadline under UAPA, but called it "meaningless" under the mandate of Section 43D(2) of the Act.
She also contended that the report submitted by the Public Prosecutor to the Court under Section 43D(2)(d) was devoid of any independent application of mind, as it merely reproduced the views of the investigating officer.
Stating that grounds of examination of "members of a WhatsApp group, Muslim students of the university" were facts that the investigating officer was aware of since the beginning of the investigation, Senior Advocate John contended that there were no "compelling reasons" to extend the period of investigation and curtail Imam's liberty.
In response to the petition, ASG Lekhi argued that the issue of extension of remand was "between the court and the prosecution" and that an accused had no right to contest the same.
He further argued that the counsel for Imam purposely refused to appear before the court on the day of the hearing for extension of deadline, on the pretext of not having any instructions.
ASG Lekhi added that the purpose of issuance of notice by a court is to provide intimation to a party, which in this case was given by the investigating officer.
Explaining the need for an extension, ASG Lekhi submitted that the investigation was "hampered" due the advent of COVID-19, and therefore, there was a need to extend the period of investigation and detention of Sharjeel Imam.
Mere technicalities of non-production would not entitle him to any relief, ASG Lekhi added.
In response to the allegation of non-application of mind by the Public Prosecutor, ASG asserted that the report was submitted after considering the case file and was not a mere reproduction of the investigating officer's views.
After hearing the parties at length, the Court reserved its order.
Imam was arrested on January 28 in pursuance of one of the FIRs under Section 153A/124A/505 of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest held in December last year.
It is the Prosecution's case that these speeches by Sharjeel Imam were part of a larger conspiracy to cause unrest in the city and ultimately led to the riots.
While Imam was in custody, offences under UAPA were added to the FIR.
Sharjeel Imam's plea to club all FIRs filed against him for his speech during the anti-CAA protests in Delhi is presently pending before the Supreme Court.