New Delhi, May 26: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought responses from Assam, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh to a plea by JNU student Sharjeel Imam, seeking the clubbing of FIRs against him in those states for alleged offences of sedition and hate speech.
The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan issued notice to the four states after solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court that all states where first information reports (FIRs) have been registered should be heard by the court before passing any order, The Hindustan Times reported.
The states were given two weeks to file their responses.
Delhi is another jurisdiction where a case has been registered against the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student. The top court issued notice to the Delhi government on May 1 and its reply is expected by Wednesday.
Imam, currently held in a Guwahati jail, has been booked for his alleged role in violence at Jamia Millia Islamia University in the aftermath of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Imam was arrested from Bihar’s Jehanabad on January 28 by Delhi Police for a speech he delivered on December 13, two days after which protesters, who had gathered outside the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, clashed with police during a march against the citizenship law.
Imam, in a speech delivered at Aligarh Muslim University on January 16, had said Assam should be “cut off” from the rest of the country. He later clarified he was calling for blocking roads leading to Assam as part of protests against CAA.
Aside from sedition (section 124A of the Indian Penal Code) and hate speech (section 153A of the Indian Penal Code), Imam was booked under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a law aimed at punishing those involved in terrorism and activities intended to bring about secession of any part of the country.
Imam’s counsel, Siddharth Dave, on Tuesday cited the case of Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami, who too had approached the Supreme Court to consolidate all FIRs against him in different states for hate speech.
The Supreme Court had, on May 19, quashed multiple FIRs against Goswami and retained only the first FIR against him at Nagpur.
Dave asked the top court to adopt the same approach in Imam’s case but Tushar Mehta opposed this, saying the issues involved in the two cases are different.
“FIRs in Arnab’s case were cyclostyled. Not in this case,” he said.