Dissent must be encouraged: Delhi court discharge Sharjeel Imam, 1o others in Delhi Riots case

Sharjeel Imam. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Dissent must be encouraged as it is an extension of the invaluable fundamental right to the freedom of speech, Delhi court observed while discharging JNU student Sharjeel Imam and ten others in connection with violence, near the Jamia Milia Islamia University in 2019.

The court further observed that the police did not apprehend the ‘actual perpetrators’ but ‘managed to rope’ the accused persons as ‘scapegoat.’

Additional Sessions judge Arul Varma of the Saket district court discharged Sharjeel Imam, student activists Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safooza Zargar, and eight others who were mainly students. However, charges were framed against one person, Md. Illyas, in this case and next hearing is on February 10.

In his observation, ASJ Varma’s order stated that ‘dissent is nothing but an extension of the invaluable fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression contained in Article 19 of the Constitution of India, subject to the restriction contained. It is therefore a right which we are sworn to uphold.’

Meanwhile, the ASJ quoted Mahatma Gandhi in his order when he stated ‘Conscience is the source of dissent.’

“When something is repugnant to our conscience, we refuse to obey it. This disobedience is constituted by duty. It becomes our duty to disobey anything that is repugnant to our conscience,” the order stated.

The ASJ also cited Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud’s recent observation that ‘destruction of spaces for questioning and dissent destroys the basis of all growth – political, economic, cultural and social.’ In this case, dissent is a safety valve of democracy.” ASJ observed.

Notably, this is the first case in which Sharjeel has been discharged, while he is still facing charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case relating to the Delhi riot.  

Sharjeel’s lawyer said that his client is facing a total of eight FIRs against Imam. “He has not been granted bail in the Delhi riots UAPA case and another UAPA case registered in Delhi for giving speeches against the CAA, NRC,” he said.

There are two cases related to the violence which took place near Jamia Milia Islamia University on December 13 and December 15, 2019.

Delhi police has claimed that Imam’s speeches led to protests which turned violent. Sharjeel has been booked in four other cases registered in UP, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, reportedly for making speeches against CAA, NRC, in these states.

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