Sedition case: HC grants interim pre-arrest bail to Kris ChudawalaUpdated: Feb 12, 2020 00:02 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday granted interim pre-arrest bail to Kris Chudawala, the 22-year-old accused of sedition by Mumbai Police for raising a slogan in support of Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam. Justice SK Shinde questioned the charge against the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) student.
“Does this satisfy the twin requirement of intention and tendency to create disorder or disturbance of peace by resorting to violence, as contemplated under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC),” asked justice SK Shinde. “A citizen has a right to say whatever he wants to comment on the government, so long as he does not incite violence, creates disorder or disturbance,” the judge added.
The question was after the judge was informed that the trans-identified student was booked for sedition after they were found shouting slogans supporting Imam. Imam, too, has been booked in Delhi and in Guwahati for sedition for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The Azad Maidan police booked Chudawala under sections 124-A (sedition), 153-(making imputations, assertions prejudicial to national interest) and 505 (making statements conducing to public mischief) r/w section 34 (common intention) of the IPC.
Chudawala had approached HC after a sessions court rejected her anticipatory bail plea on February 5. Opposing the plea, public prosecutor Deepak Thakare pointed out that Chudawala and around 60 participants of the Queer Azadi March on February 1 at Azad Maidan shouted the slogan supporting Imam.
Thakare pointed out that “Sharjeel Imam tere sapno ko ham manzil tak pahuchayenge [Sharjeel Imam, we will fulfil your dream and bring it into reality]” was one of slogans, and added that the purported dream of Shargeel Imam is to cut entire north-east India from the mainland by cutting the “chicken’s neck (Assam)”. Thakare submitted that as this was a serious offence, police needed to interrogate the Chudawala and also need to recover their mobile phone, which was used during the sloganeering.
“But she is not the first person to proclaim that ideology (of severing north-east India from the mainland),” justice Shinde retorted. “Somebody else has proclaimed the ideology, she has merely supported it.”
The judge also found force in submissions advanced by senior advocate Mihir Desai on behalf of Chudawala that Azad Maidan police did not adhere to the guidelines laid down by the HC in March 2015 in the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi sedition case, which stated police to seek a written opinion from the district law officer before invoking the charge of sedition against any person. Desai also pointed out a Supreme Court (SC) ruling, holding that mere sloganeering is not sufficient to charge a person for sedition, unless it incites violence, but in Chudawala’s case, the purportedly offensive slogan was uttered only once and nothing untoward happened thereafter.
After justice Shinde asked if the police have followed the guidelines, Thakare said the police will seek opinion from the law officer. This irked the judge, who pointed out that the guidelines laid down by the court required the police to obtain opinion in writing from the law officer before invoking charge of sedition against any person, and not thereafter.
Pointing out that the 22-year-old Thane resident’s examination is starting on Friday, Desai requested the court to grant her interim protection, saying she is willing to report to the investigating officer and co-operate with the investigation. Thakare strenuously opposed the plea for grant of interim protection, stating that the offence was of serious nature and the police must get an opportunity to interrogate her in custody.
The court, however, rejected his plea and granted her interim anticipatory bail on furnishing personal bond of ₹20,000 and one or two sureties of the same amount.
The court has asked the TISS student to report to the investigation officer on Wednesday and Thursday from 11am to 2pm and thereafter as and when called, except Friday. She has also been asked to surrender her mobile phone to the police officer and not to leave Mumbai and Thane without prior permission of the court. Calls and messages to the deputy commissioner of police (zone 1), additional commissioner of police (south), joint commissioner of police (law and order) and Mumbai police commissioner went unanswered.