2020 riots: Delhi HC orders Delhi Police to submit chart separating Sharjeel Imam’s case from other accused

Imam has sought bail on grounds of parity, saying six of the 18 accused named in the FIR have already been granted relief

Representative image
Representative image

NH Digital

The Delhi High Court on Monday ordered Delhi Police to submit a chart detailing the role of Sharjeel Imam separately from those of the accused who have been granted bail in the larger Delhi riots conspiracy case of 2020.

The court wanted the police to differentiate his role from that of Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha, all three of whom were granted bail in 2021. The court will hear the matter on 19 February.

A division bench of justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain said the police could mention the history of the accused, his role and other details about his involvement. The bench was hearing Imam’s plea seeking bail in the case and they said Imam’s counsel and Delhi Police shall also file their written submissions in the matter.

The bench headed by justice Kait is hearing Imam’s bail plea afresh after justice Siddharth Mridul was promoted as chief justice of Manipur High Court. The special bench headed by justice Mridul had reserved its order in the cases after hearing the case extensively.

Imam has sought bail on grounds of parity, saying six of the 18 accused named in the FIR have already been granted the relief. Narwal, Kalita and Tanha were been granted bail in the conspiracy case by the high court in June 2021.

Special public prosecutor Amit Prasad opposed the plea. He submitted that different roles have been attributed to different accused in the case involving the larger conspiracy behind the riots. He said as per the Supreme Court dismissing the Delhi Police’s appeal against the bail given to these three, it is for Imam to argue his case on merits and not for the prosecution to show how their role is different from the ones granted bail. 

Prasad contended the court needs to consider the kind of speeches Imam has delivered and activities he engaged in. Imam cannot be compared to the other accused, said Prasad. Delhi Police has alleged that Imam is one of the key conspirators in the 2020 Delhi riots case.

In December 2023, a lower court rapped Prasad for his regular absence in Imam's bail plea case. Judge Amitabh Rawat had noted in the order that the SPP’s regular absence was leading to derailment of the case. He added that the prosecution was not taking the case seriously.

Imam, who was booked in 2020 under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), had in August 2023 moved court seeking statutory bail. He has been in judicial custody since 28 January 2020, and argued in his bail plea that he is entitled to be released on statutory bail as he has undergone half of the maximum seven years of punishment prescribed under UAPA section 13.

He was also booked for sedition by the Delhi Police’s Special Branch in 2020 for allegedly making inflammatory speeches at Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Later, section 13 of the UAPA was invoked against him.

Sharjeel Imam, United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi, and several others, including student-activist Umar Khalid, have been booked under anti-terror law the UAPA and provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 riots in North-East Delhi, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

Besides Imam and Saifi, appeals by other accused Meeran Haider, Shifa Ur Rehman, Saleem Khan, Gulfisha Fatima and others against the dismissal of their bail applications by the trial court are also pending in the high court. The Union government’s appeal against the bail granted by the trial court to former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan is also pending.

On 18 October 2022, the high court refused to grant bail to Umar Khalid in the same case, saying he was in constant touch with other co-accused and allegations against him were prima facie true.

Student activists Narwal and Kalita, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, and several others have also been booked under the stringent law in the case.

The accused, many of whom are activists and students, are facing serious charges under Delhi Police’s FIR 59 of 2020, including those under UAPA. The case pertains to the riots that broke out in February 2023, which the Delhi Police claim was part of a larger conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi government.

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