Sharjeel Imam. Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought replies from Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur on a plea by JNU student and anti-CAA activist Sharjeel Imam seeking clubbing of multiple FIRs levelling sedition charges against him for allegedly making inflammatory speeches.
The top court gave another opportunity to the Delhi government to file its response on Imam's plea which also sought the transfer of all criminal cases against him to the national capital and probe by a single agency.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah, which took up the matter through video conferencing issued notices to the four states and listed the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi government said that it needs time to file its response on the plea as was directed by the court on May 1.
Mehta said that filing of response by Delhi government will not suffice and other states, arrayed as parties in the plea should also be asked to file their replies.
Senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for Imam, said that there are five FIRs registered against him in different states in connection with two speeches given in Delhi and in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh.
He referred to the recent verdict in Arnab Goswami case and said that similar relief can be granted to his client by quashing multiple FIRs and transferring the case to Delhi for probe by a single agency.
He said that FIRs are lodged against Imam in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and he has been booked under sedition charges.
Recently, Delhi Police booked Imam under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), he said.
The bench said that it would take up the matter for further hearing after two weeks and all the five states should file their responses by then.
On May 19, the top court had refused to quash the initial FIR against Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami over his news show on the Palghar mob lynching but gave some relief by setting aside related multiple FIRs and complaints holding they had a "stifling" effect on the exercise of freedom and expression.
On May 1, the top court had sought Delhi government's reply on the plea. On January 28, Imam was arrested by Delhi Police's crime branch from Bihar's Jehanabad in a sedition case for allegedly making inflammatory speeches in Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh.
The PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) Centre for Historical Studies has been booked on sedition and other charges after purported videos of his alleged inflammatory speeches made during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) were circulated on social media.
An FIR was registered against him by Delhi Police on January 25 under IPC sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 A (promoting or attempting to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever) among others.
"Two videos came to light, one was on December 13 at Jamia Milia Islamia and other was on January 16 at Aligarh, where it was noticed that Imam had delivered very inflammatory speeches in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens and such comments can potentially affect religious harmony and weaken the unity and integrity of the country," police had said.
A graduate in computer science from IIT-Mumbai, Imam had shifted to Delhi for pursuing research at the Centre for Historical Studies at the JNU.