The Delhi High Court said on Tuesday it will hear together on January 30 two separate pleas by JNU student Sharjeel Imam seeking regular bail and interim bail in connection with a 2020 riots case involving allegations of sedition.
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh, which was hearing Imam's petition for grant of interim bail pursuant to the Supreme Court direction keeping in abeyance section 124A (sedition) of the IPC, observed the pleas pertained to the same FIR and same issues cannot be agitated multiple times.
Two of your appeals (against denial of regular bail and interim bail by trial court) are pending for the same FIR. We will hear them together; you can't agitate same issue more than once. It can't be heard like this, the court said.
The counsel for Imam informed the court that his plea for regular bail was coming up for hearing in April and he has sought interim release until the top court decides the constitutional validity of offence of sedition. He stressed the point that Imam has been in custody for three years now.
The court observed the Supreme Court has not ordered the release of those facing sedition charges and, in the present case, Imam has been charged with offences other than sedition as well.
The end result of both (pleas) is the same. You can't have it both ways. We have two bail applications before us today. We can't hear you today and then later (again). We will hear you together. Nowhere has Supreme Court said that you have to be enlarged on bail, the court said.
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Acknowledging that the matter pertained to personal liberty of the accused, the court advanced the date of hearing of the regular bail plea from April to January 30 when it will also hear the plea seeking interim bail.
The court was also informed that Imam's plea challenging the framing of charges in the matter is also pending before it.
Last year, the trial court had ordered framing of charges against Imam under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity), l53B (Imputations prejudicial to national integration), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) of IPC and Section 13 (Punishment for Unlawful Activities) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
As per the prosecution, Imam had allegedly made speeches at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019 and at the Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019 where he threatened to cut off Assam and the rest of the Northeast from India.
In his petition before the high court, Imam has said the trial court failed to recognize that pursuant to the directions of the top court, the basis for dismissal of his earlier bail plea, the charge of sedition, no longer existed and therefore relief must be granted to him.
On May 11, 2022, the Supreme Court had stayed till further orders the registration of FIRs, probes, and coercive measures for the offence of sedition across the country by the Centre and the states until an appropriate forum of the government re-examines the colonial-era penal law.
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