In Sharjeel Imam v. State, the Delhi High Court rejected Imam’s Plea on July 10, 2020. The request challenged a Trial Court order that granted more time to the investigation agencies to file the charge sheet. This was in view of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case against him.
Facts of the Case
The police registered an FIR against Imam under Section 153A, 124A, and 505 of IPC. After this, the police arrested Imam on January 28, 2020. Allegedly, he delivered a seditious speech in December 2019 in light of the CAA protests. Consequently, this abetted riots in Jamia Millia Islamia area.
On the 88th day of his custody, Delhi police applied for an extension of the time for investigation. This came in reference to under Section 43D of UAPA by Delhi Police. Due to this, the right to access statutory bail got dismissed. For clarity purposes, the statutory bail is usually granted after 90 days of custody as per Section 167(2) of CrPC. Due to this, an instant petition had been filed on behalf of Imam to set aside the order of the Trial Court. The plea claimed that the investigation agency violated the legal procedure. The plea also stated that such an appeal took away his right to seek default bail.
Senior advocate Rebecca John, representing Sharjeel Imam, kept following arguments before the Court:
- The petitioner did not receive any notice of the application under Section 43D of UAPA.
- The petitioner was not produced before the Court for next remands. However, it is necessary to produce a person in remands every fifteen days as per the mandate of Section 167(2)(b) of CrPC.
- The investigation could not come to a standstill on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the pandemic does not imply a denial of liberty.
- It is unclear why the supposed “careful” analysis took 88 days? Moreover, what additional facts were discovered after the eight days of police custody? What causes made it necessary to merit invocation of the UAPA on the 88th day of the custody?
She also invoked various cases before the Court, such as Hitendra Vishnu Thakur v. The State of Maharashtra (1994), Sanjay Kumar Kedia v. GNCTD (1996), and Mohd. Maroof & Ors v. State.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing Delhi Police, stated that “The investigation doesn’t happen through video conferencing. The seizures, searches, movement, almost every part of the probe has been hit badly due to the pandemic.”
Further, Lekhi opposed Imam’s plea claiming that he was addressing a particular religious section of the society. Instead, the address was creating disaffection towards the government. Hence, it produced fears in public minds about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
A single-judge bench comprised of Justice V Kameswar Rao dismissed the petition by granting no relief to Sharjeel Imam. The Court stated that since the agencies have 180 days to file the charge sheet for UAPA cases, the petitioner cannot be released on default bail.
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