Syed Ali Mujtaba
New Delhi: A Delhi court acquitted student activists Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and eight others in the December 2019 Jamia Millia Islamia University violence case on Monday, February 6, 2023
Delhi Saket Additional Sessions Judge Arul Verma acquitted all of them, saying that the Delhi Police had victimized them and that there was no prima facie evidence that they were involved either in gang violence, possession of weapons, or stone-throwing.
The court maintained that the Police could not apprehend the “actual perpetrators” and that the charge sheets filed by them were “ill-conceived”.
Alluding to Article 19 of the Constitution, it said, “Dissent is an extension of the right to freedom of speech and expression. It is, therefore, a right which we have sworn to uphold.”
“There were admittedly scores of protestors at the site. It cannot be gainsaid that among the multitude, some anti-social elements within the crowd created an environment of disruption and did create havoc. However, the moot question remains whether the accused persons were even prima facie complicit in taking part in that mayhem. The answer is an unequivocal ‘no’,” the court said.
The court maintained that the prosecution has ex-facie been launched in a “perfunctory and cavalier fashion” against the accused persons, except Mohammad Ilyas, alias Allen.
The lengthy trial of charge-sheeted persons is unsuitable for the country’s criminal justice system; the court added that such police action is detrimental to citizens’ freedom to exercise their fundamental right to peaceful protest.
Intelligence agencies must distinguish between dissent and insurgency. In this case, the intelligence agencies should have used technology or collected reliable intelligence. Otherwise, it advised the Police to refrain from filing such charge sheets against those who participated in the protest.
The court acquitted Mohammad Qasim, Mahmood Anwar, Shajar Raza Khan, Mohammad Abusar, Mohammad Shoaib, Umair Ahmed, Bilal Nadeem, Sarjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Chanda Yadav, and Safoora Zargar.
Sharjeel Imam has been acquitted in this case but, since he has been detained under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, he will continue to languish in jail, not exceeding for more than three years.
The court has exposed the anti-minority attitude of the BJP government saying that the arrests of the students protesting against the CAA law in 2019 were vindictive actions by the Union government.