Delhi court denies bail to Sharjeel Imam

A Delhi Court has dismissed the regular bail plea filed by Sharjeel Imam in a 2019 case alleging that he delivered provocative speeches which led to Delhi Riots at various places 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.

“That apart, article 51A(e) of the Constitution also casts a fundamental duty upon citizens of this country to promote harmony and spread common brotherhood amongst all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. Therefore, it is no gainsaying that fundamental right of ‘freedom of speech and expression’ cannot be exercised at the cost of communal peace and harmony of the society,” Additional Sessions Judge Anuj Agrawal observed.

Further observing that the issue whether the speech would fall within ambit of section 124A IPC or not, required a deeper analysis at an appropriate stage, the Court was of the view thus:

“However, suffice it would be to observe that a cursory and plain reading of the speech dated 13.12.2019 reveals that same is clearly on communal/divisive lines. In my view, the tone and tenor of the incendiary speech tend to have a debilitating effect upon public tranquility, peace and harmony of the society.”

“Therefore, in the facts and circumstances of the present case and considering the contents of speech dated 13.12.2019 which tend to have a debilitating effect on the communal peace and harmony, I am not inclined to grant bail to applicant/accused Sharjeel Imam at this stage.”

The facts of the case are that on December 15, 2019, an information was received by Police regarding demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) by the students and residents of Jamia Nagar.

It was alleged that a mob had blocked traffic movement on the road and started damaging public/private vehicles and properties with sticks, stones and bricks.

Specific allegations against Imam were that he instigated a particular religious community against the government by creating fear in their minds regarding CAB and NRC.

As per prosecution, the said speeches delivered by Imam were seditious, communal and divisive in nature and were aimed at promoting enmity between different religions.

“The fundamental right of ‘freedom of speech and expression’ as enshrined under Article 19 has been placed upon a very high pedestal in constitution of this country and its essence is well captured in statement of John Milton, the Famous British Poet and Intellect who says “give me the liberty to know, to argue freely, and to utter according to conscience, above all liberties”. 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 observed at the outset.

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.”

Title: Sharjeel Imam vs. State