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Right to bring country to a standstill not equal to sedition, Sharjeel Imam tells Delhi court

Imam, who has been arrested under UAPA and booked for sedition, denied inciting violence and said he didn't say the Northeast should become a different state & declare independence.

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New Delhi: JNU student Sharjeel Imam, arrested for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during the protests against CAA and NRC, told a Delhi court on Monday that he cannot be hammered with sedition as his speeches did not call for violence.

Imam has moved the court seeking bail in a case related to speeches made by him at two universities in 2019, where he allegedly threatened to cut off Assam and the rest of the Northeast from India. He has been arrested under UAPA and sedition.

During the hearing, advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, representing the accused, apprised Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat that no part of his speech called for any kind of violence to be initiated.

When Sharjeel Imam says that this piece of legislation (CAA/NRC) is unconstitutional, and seeks to persuade the government to rethink and says if you don’t do it, we will be on the streets, he cannot be hammered by sedition, the counsel asserted.

He further said that the right to protest, the right to blockade, and the right to bring the country to a standstill is not equal to an act of sedition.

The speech did not call for violence. He just called for a road blockade. He did not say that the northeast should become a different state and declare independence. That would have been seditious, advocate Mir added.

He emphasised that Imam is not a member of any banned organisation or terrorist gang but is merely a student.

The alleged inflammatory speeches were made at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and at Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019. He is in judicial custody since January 28, 2020.

Imam is accused of offenses relating to sedition, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, imputations prejudicial to national integration, and public mischief under the Indian Penal Code, and indulging in unlawful activities under the UAPA.

Delhi Police had filed a charge sheet against Imam in the case, in which it alleged that he allegedly gave speeches inciting hatred, contempt, and disaffection towards the Central Government and instigated the people which led to the violence in December 2019.

In the garb of CAA, he (Imam) exhorted people of a particular community to block highways leading to major cities and resort to ‘chakka jaam’. Also, in the name of opposing CAA, he openly threatened to cut off Assam and other Northeastern states from the rest of the country, the charge sheet had said.

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