Sharjeel Imam case: Delhi HC asks trial court to examine prosecution witnesses

The matter has been listed on January 12, 2023, for further hearing. Two other applications are listed on April 10, 2023.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the trial court to examine the prosecution witnesses in a case against Sharjeel Imam except for the ones who are to be examined to prove the offence of Sedition. The Supreme Court in May had stayed the cases related to the alleged offence of Sedition.

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Sharjeel Imam in July 2022 had moved two pleas seeking a stay on trial in a case of Sedition against him and an interim bail in the matter.

His pleas earlier were dismissed by the trial court. He moved the trial court in the light of the Supreme Court judgement on the Sedition law.

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The Division bench comprising justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal directed to examine and cross-examine 20 prosecution witnesses in a Sedition case against Sharjeel Imam.

The court asked to examine these witnesses except for six witnesses including police officers and sanction authorities related to the offence of Sedition. There were a total of 43 Prosecution witnesses.

The court said that examine these witnesses and come on the next date. We will decide the issue of interim bail subject to the outcome on the issue of the law of Sedition pending before the Supreme.

The matter has been listed on January 12, 2023, for further hearing. Two other applications are listed on April 10, 2023.

The bench noted that Sharjeel Imam was arrested on January 28, 2020, and he has been in custody for almost three years. It was also noted that the maximum punishment in the section of UAPA levelled against him is 7 years. The maximum punishment in other sections related to promoting enmity between people is 3 years.

Earlier, a Delhi Court had declined to stay the trial going on against Sharjeel Imam in a sedition case. His counsels had orally prayed for a stay in the case in view of directions passed by the Supreme Court on sedition law in May 2022.

The apex court had said that all pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A of IPC be kept at abeyance. Adjudication with respect to other Sections, if any, could proceed if the Court is of the opinion that no prejudice would be caused to the accused.

Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat of Karkardooma Court while dismissing the oral prayer referred to the order passed by the Supreme Court. He said, “Thus, there is no total embargo on the continuance of trial in a case involving various offences including Section 124A (Sedition) Indian Penal Code (IPC).”

The Court said, “In the present case, the trial is continuing against accused Sharjeel Imam not only in respect of offence under Section 124A IPC but also for the offence under Section 153A, 153B, 505 of IPC and 13 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

It is correct that some of the witnesses like the complainant or the witness who has to prove sanction in respect of Section 124A IPC or the Investigation Officers cannot be examined in view of the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India as their examination could cause prejudice to the accused, the court said.

It is also said, “However, witnesses like Dharmender Kumar, who has to prove sanction order in respect of Section 13 UAPA, or forensic experts or other experts who have to prove their reports can still be examined without causing any prejudice to the accused.

Advocate Talib Mustafa and Ahmad Ibrahim, counsels for the accused, had submitted that in view of the direction passed by the Supreme Court on May 11, 2022, in the case of S.G. Vombatkere Vs. Union of India, all pending trials with respect to charges framed under Section 124A IPC have been kept in abeyance.

The counsels strongly argued that in another case titled State Vs. Anal Hussain in an FIR registered at the police station New Friends Colony, the prosecution had taken a stand that the prosecution of accused Sharjeel Imam for an offence under Section 124A IPC is to be kept in abeyance for the alleged speech and since Section 153A IPC have invoked on the basis of the said speech, therefore, the prosecution under the said section also cannot proceed with. Hence, the trial in the present matter should also stay.

On the other hand, the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Amit Prasad had submitted that in the case title State vs. Anal Hussain, the requisite sanction regarding offence under Section 124A and 153A of IPC has not been received and thus, that case cannot be compared with the present matter where not only the requisite sanction had already been accorded but also even charges have been framed and a lot of prosecution witnesses have been examined.

It was also submitted by the SPP that in the present case, apart from section 124A IPC, other provisions of the law are also invoked including Section 13 of UAPA and the trial can proceed without causing prejudice to the accused by examination of many witnesses.

Delhi Police had registered a case against JNU’s former student Sharjeel Imam for the alleged seditious speeches during the anti-CAA-NRC protest. Delhi Police Crime Branch has filed a charge sheet and charges have been framed under section 124A IPC along with 13 of UAPA.

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