CAA protests: Sharjeel Imam says his prosecution is ‘whip of monarch’
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Sharjeel Imam on Monday told a city court that his prosecution for alleged inflammatory speeches made during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens is the “whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law”.
Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir informed additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat, during a hearing on Imam’s bail application, that his client’s criticism of the government cannot be the cause of sedition.
“He is not a terrorist or associated with some terrorist outfit. He has no criminal antecedents, he does not have any political agenda,” he told the court.
“This prosecution of Sharjeel Imam is more of a whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law. This is not how the government or executive has to respond. At the end of the day, a dispensation will change. Nothing is permanent,” he said.
Imam was booked for his allegedly provocative speeches given during protests against the CAA and the NRC, wherein he allegedly threatened to “cut off” Assam and other northeastern states from the rest of the country.
The alleged inflammatory speeches for which Imam was arrested were made in Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and in Aligarh Muslim University on January 16, 2020. He has been in judicial custody since January 28, 2020.
Citing the example of a recent Bharat Bandh called by farmers against the Centre’s three contentious farm laws, Mir, asked whether those protesters could also be booked for sedition.
“Will we call for sedition in all those cases? Asking for rail roko, blocking of roads, etc, is that a constitutional means of protest or not?”
Mir said it is the duty of every citizen to be critical of the government and added, “It is only the monarchs, kings who need the affection of people. We are not here to bow down before the government.”
The lawyer said that there were many prosecutions against Imam just because he had criticised the government’s policies.
Special public prosecutor Amit Prasad said the fundamental right to protest cannot cause problems to the public at large. He told the court that violent riots took place pursuant to Imam’s speech.
“He tried to create anarchy by saying that there is no hope left for the Muslim community and that there is no other way left,” Prasad said, opposing his bail and discharge in the case.
Imam is accused of offenses relating to sedition, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, imputations prejudicial to national integration, and public mischief under the Indian Penal Code, and indulging in unlawful activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
In a charge sheet, the Delhi Police has alleged that Imam gave speeches inciting hatred, contempt, and disaffection towards the central government and instigated the people which led to the violent protests outside Jamia Millia Islamia in December 2019.