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New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday dismissed the bail application filed by JNU student Sharjeel Imam, who was arrested for allegedly giving an inflammatory speech that led to violence, observing that the “tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tend to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquility, peace and harmony of the society”.
According to police, Imam allegedly delivered a provocative speech on December 13, 2019, which resulted in riots two days later when a mob consisting of over 3,000 people attacked police personnel and torched several vehicles in the Jamia Nagar area.
Denying bail to him, additional sessions judge Anuj Agrawal said that cursory and plain reading of the speech showed that it was clearly on communal lines.
“The tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tend to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquillity, peace, and harmony of the society,” he added.
The judge, however, noted that the evidence in support of the allegations that the rioters got instigated by Imam’s speech and thereafter indulged in the acts of rioting, mischief, attacking the police party, was scanty and sketchy.
Besides this case, Imam is also accused of being the “mastermind” of the February 2020 northeast Delhi riots, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
However, According to Indian Express, the court also said that the theory put forward by the investigating agency “leaves gaping holes which leaves an incomplete picture unless the gaps are filled by resorting to surmises and conjectures or by essentially replying upon the disclosure statement of applicant/accused Sharjeel Iman and co-accused.”
“In either case, it is not legally permissible to build the edifice of the prosecution version upon the foundation of imagination or upon inadmissible confession before a police officer. Once the legally impermissible foundation of imaginative thinking and disclosure statement of accused/co-accused is removed, the prosecution version on this count appears to be crumbling like a house of cards,” the court said
The judge also quoted from John Milton’s Areopagitica, in which the English intellectual said “give me the liberty to know, to argue freely, and to utter according to conscience, above all liberties”, which captures the essence of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the constitution.
“However, the very same constitution places, reasonable restriction upon exercise of said right inter alia on the grounds of public order and incitement to offence,” the court said.
According to LiveLaw, the judge also quoted Swami Vivekanand in the order and said, “We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think; Words are secondary; Thoughts live; they travel far.”
During the hearing on Imam’s bail, the special public prosecutor had told the court that Imam’s speech on December 13, 2019, was seditious, evidently on divisive lines, and tended to hamper social harmony.
Imam, through his counsel Ahmad Ibrahim, said he is a peace-loving citizen and never participated in violence during any protest.
He argued that no speech, much less the speech dated December 13, was aimed at spreading any disaffection against the government established by law or inciting violence or ill-will against any community.
(Inputs from PTI)