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Sharjeel Imam sedition case: Delhi HC directs trial court to decide Sharjeel's bail

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Karkardooma Court to decide the bail plea of Sharjeel Imam in a sedition case against him. He sought bail on the grounds of the period undergone in the sedition case. He has been in custody since January 2020.
It is said that he has undergone more than four years, whereas the maximum punishment is seven years.
He is also accused in the larger conspiracy of the Delhi riots case.
Division bench headed by justice Suresh Kumar Kait Directed the trial court to decide the bail plea within ten days of hearing.
This plea is listed before the trial court for a fresh hearing on February 7, 2024.
Sharjeel Imam approached the high court seeking statutory bail under Section 436 A CrPC. His plea is also pending before the trial court.
The High Court disposed of the petition, noting that his plea was also pending before the court. The trial court has been directed to decide it.
Advocate Talib Mustafa submitted before the division bench that Sharjeel was arrested in January 2020. He is in custody for last 4 years. His bail order was reserved for three months. Thereafter, the presiding judge was transferred. Now the matter has been listed for fresh arguments before the current special judge.
Meanwhile, the high court has listed an appeal against the framing of charges in the sedition case for March 8, 2024.
On January 22, Additional Sessions Judge Sameer Bajpayee listed the matter and listed the bail plea for arguments afresh as of February 7, 2024.
On December 9, 2023, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Amitabh Rawat asked the Delhi Police to file a clarification.
Special public prosecutor Amit Prasad had submitted that there is some ambiguity on the provision mentioned by the defence counsel on the point that whether the accused under UAPA with multiple offences and undergone half of the sentence under UAPA is entitled to be released on bail under Section 436A Cr.pc.
He also submitted that the clarification would take two weeks.
Advocate Talib Mustafa had opposed the submissions made by the SPP for the Delhi Police.
He argued that what the SPP is submitting is related to post-conviction cases. Sharjeel is under trial. The submissions don't apply to him.
He also argued that the bail order was reserved for the last two months. I am not going to wait anymore, he said.
Earlier, the court on September 11, 2023, reserved an order on the plea of Sharjeel Imam seeking statutory bail on the grounds of the period already undergone in the sedition case. He has been in custody since January 28, 2020.
It had been argued by his counsel that Sharjeel Imam had already undergone a period of more than three and a half years. This is more than half of the maximum sentence in this case.
Sharjeel Imam's counsel advocate, Talib Mustafa, had argued that the accused has undergone half of the maximum sentence, therefore he is entitled to statutory bail under Section 436 A Cr.pc.
"He has undergone the maximum sentence even without a trial. Under Section 13, UAPA has a maximum sentence of seven years. He has undergone three and a half years," the counsel argued.
On the other hand, Delhi police said that there are multiple offences, not only one. Section 436 A Crpc talks about only 'an offence'.
Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Amit Prasad submitted that a concurrent sentence is an exception, whereas a consecutive sentence is a rule. In this way, the maximum sentence he can be awarded is 16 years, the punishment for which is restricted to 14 years.
The SPP also argued that while granting bail, the seriousness of the offences should also be considered.
Opposing the submission, counsel for Sharjeel argued that there is an infirmity in the submission of the SPP.
Spp has presumed that I would be convicted. It is contradictory to the principle of innocence, the counsel argued.
What the SPP is arguing is that post-conviction, I am under trial, not a convict, as the counsel submitted.
" I have undergone more than the maximum sentence without conducting a trial for most of the offences. Only Section 13 of the UAPA remains against me, which has a maximum sentence of seven years," the counsel argued.
The advocate for Sharjeel argued that SPP is arguing that if I have been convicted, the court is to pass an order on sentence. There is a presumption of innocence on the part of the accused until proven guilty.
The benefit of Section 436A is for under-trial prisoners and not for convicted. The punishment I have already undergone can be cumulative once again, as the counsel questioned.
The court asked if the gravity is one of the criteria, or the Crpc while granting bail.
It is said that the proceedings related to the offence of sedition are stayed and the maximum punishment for offences under UAPA is seven years. He has been in custody since January 2020; that's half of the maximum punishment for the offence under UAPA.
It is contended that the applicant has been in custody since January 28, 2020, has completed a period of 3 years and more than 6 months under incarceration and has undergone incarceration extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for the concerned offence by law.
Advocate Ahmad Ibrahim and Talib Mustafa have moved an application on behalf of Sharjeel Imam seeking his immediate release in the present criminal prosecution in terms of the statutory provisions contained in Section 436A of Cr.P.C.
The counsel submitted that the applicant has been in custody since January 28, 2020, in connection with the FIR of January 25, 2020, P.S. Crime Branch, registered for the offences punishable under sections 124A, 153A, 153B and 505(2) IPC and Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
It is stated that the applicant was arrested in his hometown of Jehanabad, Bihar, on 28.01.2020 and was produced before the Patiala House Court. Since then, he has been in judicial custody after police interrogation.
It is further submitted that the investigation in the matter has concluded and a final report or charge sheet against the applicant has been filed in this case on July 25, 2020, for the offences punishable under sections 124A, 153A, 153B, 505 of the IPC and Section 13 of the UAPA.
The Court took cognizance of the speeches and offences under sections 124A, 153A, 1538 and 505 IPC on 29.07.2020 and Section 13 of the UAPA on December 19, 2020, as the plea stated.
Thereafter, charges were formally framed against the applicant on March 15, 2022, by Court under section 124A, 153A, 153B and 505 IPC
The Court had passed the direction effectively staying the operation of Section 124A IPC and all proceedings emanating therefrom, it added.
The High Court of Delhi, on October 31, 2022, directed that the trial be stayed in respect of material witnesses and only formal witnesses be examined.
It is argued that Section 436A of the Cr.PC. is a wholesome beneficial substantive provision, which is for effectuating the right to speedy trial guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.
It is also said that after the stay of trial in the present case by the High Court in regard to the main offence of Section 124A IPC (Sedition) in light of the directions passed by Supreme Court in S.G Vombatkere v. Union of India on 11.05.2022, the only offences remaining against the applicant relate to offence punishable U/s 153A IPC (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) which is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to five years, 153B IPC (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) which is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to five years, 505 IPC (Statements conducing to public mischief) which is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to five years and 13 of UAPA (Punishment for unlawful activities) which is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to seven years.
It is also contended that even as per the maximum punishment extending up to 7 years prescribed under Section 13 UAPA, the applicant has completed one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for the concerned offence by law and hence deserves grant of statutory bail under Section 436A of Cr.PC.

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