A Mumbai court on Wednesday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Urvashi Chudawala, a 22-year-old student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who is facing a sedition case for ‘shouting slogan’ in support of JNU student Sharjeel Imam at an LGBTQ event.
Around 50 others were also booked under sections 124 (A) (sedition), 153 (B) (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 34 (Common Intention) of the Indian penal code.
Additional sessions judge Prashant Rajvaidya rejected Chudawala’s application for pre-arrest bail. The court also refused to grant her interim protection from arrest to enable her to move the high court.
The prosecution, while opposing relief for her, had claimed that Chudawala was “supporting a person who is officially enemy of the state”. Chudawala is a student at the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences in the city.
According to the police, during a rally of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer community at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai last week, Chudawala shouted the slogan “Sharjeel Tere Sapno Ko Hum Manzil Tak Pahuchaege” (Sharjeel, we will realise your dreams).
Her lawyer Vijay Hiremath had argued that an innocuous slogan was taken out of context to allege that she wanted to create hatred against a community.
“There was only one line, which was said only once…has it done any harm? It was not aimed at public servant or government machinery…it is not sedition at all….It does not create hatred towards government, community or anyone,” he said. “We may not agree with her statement but that does not amount to sedition,” the lawyer added.
Chudawala was a student, her examinations were nearing, and her career will be destroyed for a “two-second video”, advocate Hiremath argued. “I (Chudawala) am being made an example as various protests are going on and they want to show they are taking it seriously. The state is not so fragile that a two-second video becomes sedition,” he added.
Chief Public Prosecutor Jaisingh Desai argued that Chudawala had shared a post in support of Imam on social media a day before the rally, which she deleted later.
Referring to the controversial speech by Sharjeel Imam, Desai said he had spoken against the country. “You are supporting a person who is officially enemy of the state,” he said. When the police contacted her, she did not turn up before police to make clear her stand, the prosecution alleged.
Police could not carry out further probe without arresting her, Desai contended. The court, while rejecting her plea, observed that Chudawala’s statement in Imam’s support “prima facie attracts the ingredients of the charges of sedition under section 124 (a) of Indian Penal Code, which attracts life imprisonment.”
“The case is of serious nature…custodial interrogation is required to reach the roots of the matter,” the court said. Azad Maidan Police registered the case after a video showing Chudawala raising slogans in support of Imam went viral after the LGBTQ rally on February 1.
Imam was arrested last month for allegedly making inflammatory speeches at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi and in Aligarh during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. A PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies, Imam was booked in sedition cases lodged by several states for alleged “inflammatory” speeches made during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. In a video of the speech, he could be heard inciting Muslims to “cut off Assam from India” by occupying the “Muslim-dominated Chicken’s Neck”. The 22-km Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken’s Neck, in West Bengal, connects the northeastern states to the rest of India.