[Delhi Riots] If criticism dies, society will die: Sharjeel Imam seeks bail in sedition case

Imam's counsel argued that Imam in his speeches, had only called for protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and that cannot amount to sedition by any stretch of imagination in a democratic society.
[Delhi Riots] If criticism dies, society will die: Sharjeel Imam seeks bail in sedition case
Sharjeel Imam

Counsel for JNU student Sharjeel Imam concluded his arguments on Monday in the bail plea filed by Imam in a sedition case connected to Delhi riots that rocked the national capital in February, 2020.

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir arguing before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, referred to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana's recent remarks on sedition law and how it seems to be a misfit in a democratic society.

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Mir further argued that Imam in his speeches had only called for protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and that cannot amount to sedition by any stretch of imagination in a democratic society.

Mir submitted that Imam in his speeches had stated, 'Humlogo ko pathar nahi maarne; humlogo ko chot nahi pahuchani.. humlogon ko kewal road block karna hai taaki government jo nahi maan rahi hai wo maanne ko tayiyar ho jaye (We don't have to resort to stone-pelting; not hurt anyone; we only have to block roads so that the government listens to what it is not listening to’).

Shaheen bagh
Shaheen bagh

The Delhi police's chargesheet in the conspiracy case has alleged that Imam was the “mastermind” of the Shaheen Bagh blockade. It has also alleged that in the late afternoon of December 15, 2019, Imam, with the help of Jamia student Arshad Warsi and his accomplices, started a 24x7 permanent road block (chakka jam) of road number 13, Kalindi Kunj Road at Shaheen Bagh.

Mir contended on Monday that Imam is not a member of any banned organisation or part of any terrorist organisation.

"He is only a student. Just because he seeks to criticise the policy of government, which per se is Unconstitutional, he and others were termed ‘bigoted'," it was submitted.

Mir further argued, "We are proud of our unity and not majoritarianism."

"Critical elements in a society are necessary. If criticism dies, society will die. Ultimately the flag to uphold Constitution; to uphold justice in a democracy, lies in Your Honour's hands," he added.

Imam can be put to terms and he could give an undertaking that he will act inside the four corners of law, argued Mir.

The Court then posed a question to Mir: "In his speech there's reference to government of the day, Directive Principles, strong criticism of Gandhiji, other political parties. Does it matter? If you are speaking and crowd is not that intellectually strong. Context is important, tone is important, is audience also important?"

Mir responded submitting that the speech has to be seen in the context - whether it was made to people who brazenly brandished swords or to students who debated issues pertaining to constitutionality.

"Everybody has right to subject constitutionality to criticism or support. We cannot be sheep following a diktat," he said.

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Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad said that his submissions would be two-fold. "Whether sedition is made out or not and if Section 13 of UAPA is attracted. We can argue on bail and make arguments on charge together because the gist remains the same."

The court, thereafter, posted the matter for further hearing on September 1.

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