SC: Bail applications should not be argued for over ten minutes

The top court clarified that the Delhi high court's observations made on Sharjeel Imam during Umar Khalid's bail hearing will not prejudice the former's pending case

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NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Friday clarified that the observations made with respect to JNU student Sharjeel Imam in the Delhi High Court verdict will not affect his case pending before the court. This observation came in the face of Delhi High Court rejecting the bail plea of co-accused Umar Khalid for alleged conspiracy behind the February 2020 riots in northeast Delhi. During this judgement, remarks were made on Sharjeel Imam.

A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka, which was hearing Imam's plea concerning the remarks made against him in the October 18 judgement of the high court said that one of the paragraphs in the verdict clarified "nothing stated hereinabove shall tantamount to an expression of any opinion on the merits of the case."

"This happens when people argue bail applications like it is an appeal on merits," Justice Kaul observed, saying that he finds it a complete wastage of time when hearing on bail applications goes on and on. He stated that bail applications should not be argued for over 10 minutes.

In its verdict rejecting former JNU student Khalid's plea seeking bail, the high court had said he was in constant touch with other co-accused and allegations against him were prima facie true.

"....having carefully gone through the charge-sheet and taking into consideration the fact that the appellant (Khalid) was in constant touch with other co-accused persons, including Sharjeel Imam, who arguably is at the head of the conspiracy; at this stage, it is difficult to form an opinion that there are not reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the petitioner is prima facie not proved," the high court had said in its verdict.

Imam said that these remarks were made without giving him an opportunity of being heard and without any evidence on record, in clear violation of principles of natural justice.

The Court today said that such observations creep into the judgment when bail matters are heard at length as if the Court is hearing a final appeal against conviction.

"These things (observations etc) only happen when bails are argued for so long like final appeals on conviction etc," the bench said.

During the hearing before the top court, the counsel appearing for Imam told the bench they are constrained to move the apex court as serious prejudice would be caused to the petitioner due to the observations made by the high court in the order denying bail to one of the co-accused in the case.

Khalid's bail plea had been heard for over 20 days before the Court had rejected it while also making remarks against Imam.

"We have noticed that in paragraph 68 of the judgement, the division bench of the high court has clarified that the observations shall not tantamount to an expression of any opinion on the merits of the case," the bench said.

"We clarify that any observations made in respect to the petitioner (Imam) will not prejudice the petitioner...," the top court said.

Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and several others have been booked under the anti-terror law the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 riots, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

(With Agency Inputs)

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