Delhi HC frames charges against Sharjeel, Safoora and seven others for rioting, unlawful assembly

28 March, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma

Delhi High Court National

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday charged Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, and seven other accused under sections related to rioting, unlawful assembly, obstructing public servants, damaging property, ...

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday charged Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, and seven other accused under sections related to rioting, unlawful assembly, obstructing public servants, damaging property, and other sections, partially overturning the trial court order.

According to the High Court, the accused participated in an unlawful assembly and raised slogans, as well as breaking the first line of barricade and becoming violent. During the protest, they assaulted police officers and climbed the barricades, according to the High Court.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma on Tuesday while partially setting aside the order said, “While there is no denial of the right to freedom of expression, this Court remains aware of its duty and has tried to decide the issue in that way. Right to peaceful assembly is subject to restriction. Damage to property and peace is not protected.”

The high court also said there is electronic evidence consisting of video clips in which some of the accused are seen in a video clip.

The high court framed charges against Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Mohd Qasim, Mahmood Anwar, Shahzar Raza, Umair Ahmed, Mohd Bilal Nadeem and Chanda Yadav under Sections 143, 147, 149, 186, 353, 427 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act.

Accused Mohd Shoaib and Mohd Abuzar were charged under Section 143 IPC, and discharged from all other offences, the High court said. Asif Iqbal Tanha has been discharged from Sections 308, 323, 341 and 435 IPC. He has been charged under other sections.

Advocate Ahmad Ibrahim counsel for Sharjeel Imam said that they will challenge the order. Delhi Police had moved against the discharge of Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar and 8 others in the Jamia violence case of 2019.

The trial court had made some serious remarks while discharging the accused persons on February 4. Trial court record has been summoned in digitised form. The observations has not been expunged.

The ASG representing the Delhi police had stated that the observations were incorrect and would prejudice the subsequent investigation. The case is scheduled for March 16.

Sanjay Jain, Additional Solicitor General, argued that the trial court’s observations are incorrect and prejudicial to further investigation. According to ASG, there was a FIR, one main charge sheet, and three supplementary charge sheets. The trial court dismissed the third charge sheet based on legal reasoning that was incorrect.

The counsel for Asif Iqbal Tanha, on the other hand, argued that the supplementary charge sheet was filed to fill gaps in the investigation. She also claimed that there is a distinction between dissent and peaceful protest. The individuals named in the second charge sheet were Jamia Milia Islamia University students. As a result, their presence was not unusual.

It was argued that the trial court Order is null and void, non-est, and contrary to well-established legal principles. According to the Order, the Trial Court not only discharged the Respondents, but also, swayed by emotional and sentimental feelings, cast aspersions on the prosecuting agency and made gravely prejudicial and adverse remarks about the prosecuting agency and the investigation.

The Trial Court proceeded to discharge the respondents at the stage of framing of charges without considering and weighing the evidence on record. The Trial Court erred in not only holding a mini-trial at this stage but also recording perverse findings that are contrary to the record to arrive at the finding that a case of discharge was made out against the Respondents.

It is argued that a cursory reading of the Impugned Order reveals that the Trial Court has proceeded to make observations on the merits of the case.

It is also argued that at the discharge stage, the Trial should only have to sift the evidence to determine whether or not there is sufficient ground to proceed against the accused.

In other words, the sufficiency of grounds would include the nature of the evidence recorded by the police or the documents produced before the court that, on the surface, reveal that there are suspicious circumstances against the accused in order to frame a charge against him, according to the petition.

It is further contended that, in applying its judicial mind to the facts of the case in order to determine whether the prosecution has made out a case for trial, the Trial Court should refrain from delving into the pros and cons of the matter or from weighing and balancing evidence and probabilities, as is done at the trial stage.

On February 4, the Saket court in Delhi released Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar, and the other eight accused in the Jamia Milia Islamia University Violence case, which was filed in 2019. However, the court ordered that charges be filed against Mohd. Iliyas alias Allen in the matter.

In the case, the trial court made serious remarks. According to the court, the accused were made scapegoats in the case. The court ruled that the police had no evidence against the accused. This case relates to December 2019 violence in Jamia and surrounding areas. A clash between protesters and police over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) erupted in violence. In 2021, Sharjeel was granted bail.

A case was registered at Jamia Nagar Police Station in connection with violence broke out on December 13, 2019. Delhi police had made 12 persons accused in the case. Delhi police alleged offences of rioting and unlawful assembly and Section 143, 147, 148, 149, 186, 353, 332, 333, 308, 427, 435, 323, 341, 120B and 34 of IPC were invoked in the FIR.