NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday partially set aside a trial court order discharging Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and eight others in a 2019 violence case at Jamia Millia Islamia, while charging the student activists under rioting, unlawful assembly, and other offences.
The High Court held that the protests, which flared up during the anti-CAA period, were an unlawful assembly and the mob gathered with the intention to violate the law. “Though, in a democracy, there can be no question of dissent being suppressed or fundamental right of freedom of expression by peaceful means being infringed, however, at the same time, there is no place of violent collective action to register one’s anguish against ideological differences,” Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed in the 90-page judgement.
The High Court order was following the revision petition moved by the Delhi Police against the trial court relief to Imam and others which also said that the cops ‘managed to rope them as scapegoats’ in the case. The HC judge, however, refused to pass an interim direction to expunge the remarks as requested by the police.
It was held that prima-facie charges of rioting and unlawful assembly are made out against nine of the 11 accused, including Imam, Tanha, and Zargar. The court charged Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar, Mohd Qasim, Mahmood Anwar, Shahzar Raza, Umair Ahmed, Mohd Bilal Nadeem and Chanda Yadav under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence commit¬ted in prosecution of common object), 186 (obstructing public servant), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant), 427 (mischief) of the IPC, as well as Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act.
The HC said there is no confusion about rights of the individuals to express themselves and to assemble lawfully for lawful purpose, however, the assembly of such persons cannot be permitted to violate laws of the land or regulations.