The Delhi High Court on Tuesday partially overturned a trial court’s order which discharged Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha and eight others in the Jamia violence case, which occurred during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Jamia Nagar in 2019.
This was in response to the police’s revision plea against a trial court’s order from 4 February which discharged the eleven accused in the incident. Following the Jamia incident, the Jamia Nagar police station had filed a chargesheet against twelve people – Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar, Mohammad Qasim, Mahmood Anwar, Shahzar Raza Khan, Mohammad Abuzar, Mohammad Shoaib, Umair Ahmad, Bilal Nadeem, Chanda Yadav and Mohammad Ilyas.
In its order, the trial court held that the accused were being made scapegoats by the police. It found that there was no incriminating evidence against the accused beyond mere presence at the site, and held that dissent is an extension of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. In light of the police’s failure to produce any proof that the accused were interacting with each other, it also criticised the police for arbitrarily assigning perpetrator and witnesses to people in the crowd. It only ordered framing charges against one of the accused – Mohammad Ilyas.
The police then filed a petition with the HC that sought to set aside the trial court’s order and called it “patently illegal”. They accused the trial court of being swayed by emotional and sentimental feelings that were fueled by a prejudice against the police and its investigation. It argued that at this stage, the court must not question the validity of the material presented by the prosecution and should instead determine whether the alleged offence took place by examining the facts at face value. “The court is not expected to go deep into the matter and hold that the materials would not warrant a conviction,” the petition said.
Responding to this petition, the HC said that the accused were part of the “unlawful assembly” that sloganeered against the Delhi police and jumped barricades. It held that while freedom of expression cannot be denied, the right to peaceful assembly is subject to restriction, and damage to peace and property is not protected.
The HC has overturned the discharge for nine out of the eleven accused and fresh charges were ordered against them. Mohammed Qasim, Mahmood Anwar, Shahzar Raza, Umair Ahmed, Mohd Bilal Nadeem, Sharjeel Imam, Chanda Yadav and Safoora Zargar have now been changed under sections 143, 147, 149, 183, 353 and 427 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties act. The remaining two, Mohammed Shoaib and Mohammedd Abuzar, have been charged with Section 143 of the IPC but discharged from all other sections.