Sharjeel Imam and Delhi HC
Sharjeel Imam and Delhi HC
Litigation News

[Breaking] Delhi HC dismisses Sharjeel Imam plea challenging extension of time for probe into UAPA case against him

Sharjeel Imam was arrested on January 28 for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during an anti-CAA protest held in December last year.

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court today dismissed the petition filed by Sharjeel Imam challenging the trial court order granting an extension of time for completion of investigation in a case filed against him for making allegedly inflammatory speeches during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest (Sharjeel Imam v. State).

The judgment was pronounced by Justice V Kameswar Rao after it was reserved last month.

Sharjeel 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-CAA protest held in December last year.

While Imam was in custody, offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) were added to the FIR.

It is the prosecution's case that these speeches made by Sharjeel Imam were part of a larger conspiracy to cause unrest in the city, and ultimately led to the riots.

Imam had moved the High Court in May against the trial court order granting an extension of time for completion of the investigation in the sedition case filed against him.

It was argued that the invocation of UAPA by the Delhi Police on the eighty-eighth day of his custody was done with the sole intention of depriving him of his right to statutory bail after 90 days' custody as per Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Imam also contended that the order of extension was passed by the trial court without even issuing notice to him, which was in violation of the principles of natural justice.

Amongst other things, it was further claimed that there were no compelling reasons to grant the extension and that the Report of the Prosecutor under Section 43D(2)(b) UAPA was not valid.

In response to the petition, the Delhi Police 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.

Delhi Police stated that given the WhatsApp conversation between the Investigating Officer and one of the advocates for Imam a day prior, Imam was duly put to notice with respect the application for extension of probe time.

It was explained that the investigation was "hampered" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore, there was a legitimate need to extend the period of investigation and detention.

Findings:

The Court at the outset noted that there was no challenge to the addition of Section 13 of UAPA to the list of offences that Imam was accused of.

The Court relied on the decision of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Sanjay Dutt vs. State to state that the requirement of notice is not of a "written notice giving reasons" but only of production of the accused at the time of consideration of the report of the Prosecutor, in person or through counsel, and of informing the accused that the extension of the period for completing the investigation was under consideration.

..the appearance of the counsel for the petitioner being sufficient representation while considering application / report of the APP, whether it is on a notice issued by the Court or on an information from the Investigating Officer is inconsequential.. The fact that the counsel of the petitioner was in the knowledge about the impending application / report seeking extension of time for completion of the investigation beyond 90 days and a written notice giving reasons is not the requirement of law, I find, there is a compliance of principles of natural justice.
Delhi High Court

Agreeing with the Delhi Police's stance, the Court added that an accused has no right to oppose the application/report moved by the APP for extension of the period for completing the investigation.

With regards Imam's contention that the report of APP under Section 43D(2)(b) showed no application of mind, the Court remarked that the submission was not appealing.

The Court noted that Report was based on the case file and showed the independent application of mind.

The Report detailed the reasons for not completing the investigation in 90 days, as well as the progress made in the investigation, the Court added as it opined that there were "justifiable/good" grounds to extend the period for carrying out investigation.

Lastly, rejecting arguments on malafide on part of Delhi Police, the Court remarked,

It is only when despite efforts, investigation could not be completed in time, that the investigating authority approached the Court for extension. In any case there is no bar in law for moving the application on the 88th day, are appealing.
Delhi High Court

The petition was accordingly dismissed.

Imam was represented by Senior Advocate Rebecca John and Advocate Bhavook Chauhan, Surabhi Dhar, Ahmed Ibrahim, Praavita K.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi with Standing Counsel and Special Public Prosecutor Amit Mahajan, Special Public Prosecutor Rajat Nair, Advocates Ritwik Rishabh, Ujjwal Sinha, Aniket Seth, Dhruv Pande represented Delhi Police.

Read the Judgement:

Sharjeel Imam vs State.pdf
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