Delhi Police Thursday opposed in the Delhi High Court a plea by JNU student Sharjeel Imam, arrested in a case related to alleged inflammatory speeches during the protests against CAA and NRC, challenging a trial court order granting more time to conclude the investigation.
The police contended there was no infirmity in the trial court's April 25 order which granted it three more months, beyond the statutory 90 days, to complete the investigation in the case under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.
Justice V Kameswar Rao, who heard the matter through video conferencing for over 5 hours, reserved the order on the plea and asked the counsels for the police and Imam to file written submissions by June 28 after which the decision will be pronounced.
Imam was arrested on January 28 from Bihar's Jehanabad district in the case related to violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) near the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university here in December last year.
The statutory period of 90 days from the arrest got concluded on April 27.
He has also sought default bail in the matter on the ground that the probe was not concluded within the statutory period of 90 days and when the police had filed an application for more time to complete the investigation, he was not given a notice as required under the law.
The trial court had dismissed the bail plea.
Senior advocate Rebecca John, representing Imam, argued that the invocation of UAPA on the 88th day of the accused'' custody, is with the sole intention to curtail his liberty and deprive him of right to the statutory bail after custody of 90 days.
She contended that no notice was given to Imam or his lawyer by the trial court informing them about the application of the special cell seeking the extension of the time to file the charge sheet in view of invoking UAPA charges against him.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the police, said no provision of law has been violated and there are good and substantial cause for enlargement of time for investigation and contended that Imam was not entitled for any relief.
He claimed the submissions advanced on behalf of the accused are misconceived and contended that there was no infirmity in the trial court's order.
He said the statutory bail of the accused was also rejected by the trial court on the ground of extension of time to complete the investigation.
Mr Lekhi along with advocate Amit Mahajan, said the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the pace of investigation got disrupted as the probe was not done through video conferencing.
The law officer said there was an application of mind by the prosecutor who also said there was a need to extend the time for completing the probe and the application has to be filed before expiry of 90 days.
"I can make the application on the 89th day also. There is no bar as long as there is a cause. The requirement is a cause and not a bar," he argued.
The police had earlier filed an affidavit opposing Imam''s plea and said "he was continuously giving inflammatory and instigating speeches against the government on the issue of CAA and National Register of Citizens."
It had said Imam by way of his speeches was addressing a particular religious section of the society and creating disaffection towards the government by creating unfounded fears in their minds regarding the CAA and the NRC, which is yet to be implemented in any manner throughout the country barring Assam.
During the hearing, John said after the trial court''s April 25 order, another 60 days have passed and Imam was still in custody.
She said as per a Supreme Court verdict, COVID-19 is no ground for extending time for filing of charge sheet.
The police had said despite the lockdown, the counsel of the accused was timely informed of the application being filed under section 43 of the UAPA through WhatsApp and a call, keeping in view the rights of the accused.
Section 43-D (2) of UAPA provides that if it is not possible to complete the investigation within the 90 days period, then upon the report of the public prosecutor indicating the progress of the probe and the specific reasons for the detention of the accused beyond the 90 days period, after satisfaction, the court can extend the period of the probe to 180 days.
Imam is currently lodged in Guwahati jail in a case related to UAPA registered by the Assam police.
Initially, a case under section 124 A (sedition) and 153 A IPC (promoting enmity between classes) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC was lodged by the Crime Branch here, pursuant to the alleged speeches addressed by Imam, allegedly instigating a particular religious section of the society to disrupt/block the access to North East region of India from rest of India, police had claimed.
Imam was allegedly involved in organising protests at Shaheen Bagh but came into limelight after a video showed him making controversial comments before a gathering at Aligarh Muslim University, following which he was booked under sedition charges.
Another case was filed against Imam in Assam under the stringent anti-terror law for his remark that Assam could be "severed from India, even if for a few months" as a result of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Police in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh had also lodged FIRs against the JNU scholar over his speech in which he threatened to "cut off" Assam and the rest of the northeast from the country.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)