Elgar Parishad 2021: Sharjeel Usmani moves Bombay HC to quash FIR
Sharjeel Usmani, former Aligarh Muslim University student leader who was booked by Swargate police at Pune on February 2, has approached the Bombay high court (HC) seeking to quash the first information report (FIR). Usmani was booked under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code for his alleged provocative speech at the Elgar Parishad 2021 conference on January 30.
In his petition Usmani claimed the FIR was a political gimmick by advocate Pradeep Gawade, regional secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On February 2, Gawade had submitted a written complaint to Swargate police station against Usmani’s speech, and after a preliminary probe, the police booked Usmani for allegedly making offensive statements against the Hindu community, Indian judiciary and the parliament.
In the petition filed through advocate Aditi Saxena, Usmani claimed that the content of his speech was already available in public domain in academic literature. It further stated that a select few statements made by him were taken out of context to lodge the complaint. “The petitioner in his speech has identified a problem in the social construct of this day, and has concluded with a solution to the problem,” says the petition with which the speech is annexed. He submitted that the gist of his speech was to fight hatred with constant dialogue with people who do not share the same ideological views.
Refuting the allegations made in the FIR, the petition states, “The FIR does not disclose intention to cause disorder or incite people to violence to attract offence under section 153A of IPC. FIRs of this nature are a protracted modus operandi of misrepresenting what is said beginning with social media and culminating by initiating the criminal justice system.”
“This is largely designed to vitiate communal harmony in society and, in effect, curb free speech and in effect by initiating the juggernaut of the criminal justice system redefine the contours of acceptable free speech,” states the petition.
In light of these averments, Usmani sought not only to quash the FIR but also sought a stay on the investigation arising out of the said FIR. He has also asked for protection from coercive action pending hearing of the petition.
Due to paucity of time the petition which was to be heard by the division bench of justice SS Shinde and justice Manish Pitale on Friday will be taken up in due course.
Elgar Parishad 2021 was organised by Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan to observe the birth anniversary of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar of the University of Hyderabad, who had died by suicide in 2016.
Apart from Usmani, retired HC judge BG Kolse Patil and retired IPS officer SM Mushrif along with author Arundhati Roy, former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, Dalit activist Satyabhama Suryawanshi from Latur and journalist Prashant Kanojia had attended the conference.