Protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) is not a crime, the President of Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia (AAJMI), Shifa-ur-Rehman, who is an accused in an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act case connected to Delhi riots of 2020, told a Delhi court on Tuesday while seeking bail.
Rehman's counsel Abhishek Singh submitted before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat that the issue was not whether CAA and NRC were valid.
“Question is, (is it a crime) if a group of people perceived that a policy is against them and protest against it. Protesting is not a crime. They can certainly protest,” argued Singh.
Rehman, also a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), was arrested and chargesheeted for his alleged involvement in the riots.
The counsel said that there was a difference between a protester and a rioter. He contended that right to protest is a fundamental right and Rehman was a protester and not a rioter.
Singh also pointed out that Rehman as a member of AAJMI, had made an appeal for peaceful protests.
“Why has prosecution not bothered to bring on record any of the speeches of Shifa-ur-Rehman? Why? Because it would destroy the prosecution's case. Because he said protest has to happen in peaceful manner,” Singh emphasised.
The counsel further argued that his client had made a complaint against those giving the "goli maaron” statement.
“Did the prosecution ask me we want to know something from you? Why was no FIR registered against them. This was the complaint I was pursuing. That was difference between me and other AAJMI members,” stressed Singh.
The lawyer highlighted the “principles of parity” to argue that his client should not have been made an accused at all in the case.
“If prosecution says there was a conspiracy what was the distinction (given) that some were made an accused while others were not?” he asked.
Singh objected to the use of “protesters and rioters” together when it came to Rehman’s alleged role in the case.
“Even chargesheet makes a distinction. Being president of AAJMI is not an offence; being a protester is not an offence; being a member of JCC is not an offence,” he said.
The arguments would continue in September.