A Delhi court Monday (May 4) dismissed an application of former JNU student and anti-CAA activist Sharjeel Imam, booked under stringent anti-terror law – Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act – seeking bail on the ground that the investigation was not concluded within the statutory period of 90 days.
Imam was arrested on January 28 from Bihar in the case related to violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) near the Jamia Millia Islamia University in December last year.
The statutory period 90 days would have concluded on April 27.
In the application, he contended that the trial courts April 25 order extending the period of investigation in the case to 90 days more is bad in law.
Rejecting the contention, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana, said the order extending period of investigation was passed before expiry of statutory time period of 90 days.
Since the time period to conclude investigation has already been extended as per section 43 D (2) of UAPA, “I am of the considered opinion that application for release of the accused on statutory bail is bereft of merits and the same is accordingly dismissed,” the court said.
Section 43-D (2) of UAPA provides that if it is not possible to complete the investigation within the 90 days period, then upon the report of the public prosecutor indicating the progress of the probe and the specific reasons for the detention of the accused beyond the 90 days period, after satisfaction, the court can extend the period of probe to 180 days.
Imam is currently lodged in Guwahati jail in a case related to UAPA registered by the Assam police.
The counsel for Imam argued that the investigating agency did not conclude the probe within the specified time limit and hence the accused has an indefeasible right to be released on statutory bail.
The lawyer submitted that although on April 25, period of investigation was extended for a further period of 90 days by a Roster Judge, that order is not in consonance with the statutory provisions.
The counsel further contended that the court which passed the order for extension of probe period was not competent enough and no report was filed by the public prosecutor and thus the order was non-est (does not exist) in the eyes of law.
Even no notice was served upon the accused before extension of time and in the absence of any notice, the court could not have extended the statutory time period, he submitted.
Additional Public Prosecutor opposed the application saying the Roster Judge was empowered to deal with the application under the UAPA and was well within his powers to entertain and dispose of the application of the prosecutor for extension of time.
The prosecutor argued that the counsel for the accused was duly intimated by way of WhatsApp about the application and despite intimation, the counsel opted not to appear before the court and now the accused cannot cry foul.
The trial court had on April 25 given 90 days more to the police to complete their investigation in the case.
The order was passed after the police had told the court that due to global COVID-19 pandemic in the country and the ongoing lockdown, the pace of investigation was seriously disrupted.
The police further informed the court that they are yet to interrogate the members of WhatsApp group Muslim students of JNU, persons who provided their accounts to arrange for money to get printed the pamphlets and Imams friends and persons who initially video recorded the speech at Jamia are yet to be identified.
It said that results in respect of hard disk of laptop and the mobile phone and the alleged videos are yet to be received from the forensic lab and the replies from Facebook, Twitter and Cert-In are yet to be received and analysed and the requisite sanctions are also to be obtained.
Initially, a case under section 124 A (sedition) and 153 A IPC (promoting enmity between classes) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code was registered at the Crime Branch, New Delhi, pursuant to the alleged speeches addressed by Imam, allegedly instigating a particular religious section of the society to disrupt/block the access to North East region of India from rest of India, police claimed.
The police had earlier charged Imam with sedition, alleging his speech promoted enmity between people that led to riots.
The mob indulged in large-scale rioting, stone-pelting and arson, and in the process destroyed several public and private properties while a number of police personnel and people were injured in the riots, the police had told the court.
Imam was arrested from Bihar’s Jehanabad on January 28.
He was involved in organising protests at Shaheen Bagh but came into limelight after a video showed him making controversial comments before a gathering at Aligarh Muslim University, following which he was booked under sedition charges.
Another case was filed against Imam in Assam under the stringent anti-terror law for his remark that Assam could be “severed from India, even if for a few months” as a result of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Police in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh had also lodged FIRs against the JNU scholar over his speech in which he threatened to “cut off” Assam and the rest of the northeast from the country.