Delhi HC reserved its order in the plea filed by Sharjeel Imam. The plea challenged the Trial Court’s order granting an extension of time for concluding the investigation. The investigation is in respect to the sedition case filed against him.
Facts of the case
The police arrested Imam for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during an anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019) protest. The charges against Imam are under Section 153A/124A/505 of the Indian Penal Code. While Imam was in custody, offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA) got added to the FIR.
Imam’s plea to club all FIRs filed against him for his speech during the anti-CAA protests in Delhi is pending before the SC. Hence, Imam sought his release on default bail. Moreover, he challenged the extension of the period to complete the investigation.
Senior Advocate Rebecca John represented Sharjeel Imam. She argued that the invocation of the UAPA by Police was to deprive him of statutory bail after 90 days’ custody.
The Trial Court passed the notice without issuing notice to Imam. She submitted that this violates the principle of natural justice. Although she acknowledged that she received a message about an application for extension of the deadline under UAPA. But the advocate stated this ‘meaningless’ under the mandate of Section 43D (2) of the Act.
She contended that the report filed by the Public Prosecutor is no independent application of mind. The counsel also states that it is merely the views of the investigation officer. She further submitted that the report was a cut, copy, paste job.
Above all, the counsel submitted that the public prosecutor has failed to provide compelling reasons. She contended that COVID-19 pandemic is no reason to stop the investigation. Moreover, liberty is a part and parcel of one’s right even during the crisis.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi argued that the criminal proceedings are not only about the rights of the accused, but also the right of the public. He argued that there is no reason to interfere with the extension of the investigation deadline.
Mr Lekhi argued that the non-issuance of the notice from the Trial Court was a technical issue. He said that this is not a ground to set aside the extension. Moreover, he argued that the issue of extension of remand was between the Court and the prosecution. Hence, the accused has no right to contest the same.
He further argued that the Imam’s counsel refused to appear before the Court, on the pretext of not having any instructions. He further submitted that the issuance of notice is to indicate the party. It was done by the investigating officer.
He submitted that the investigation was hampered because of COVID-19. There is a need to extend the period of investigation and detention of Sharjeel Imam. He also submitted that the report was submitted after considering the case file and was not a reproduction of the investigating officer’s views.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice V. Kameshwar Rao has reserved the judgment in the instant matter. The Court directed both the parties to file a 5-page note on their submissions by Sunday evening.
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