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Delhi Riots’ Conspiracy’: HC Dismisses Umar Khalid’s Bail Plea in UAPA Case

The former JNU student had sought bail on the ground that he neither had any “criminal role” in the violence nor any “conspiratorial connect” with any other accused in the case.
Delhi Riots’ Conspiracy’: HC Dismisses Umar Khalid’s Bail Plea in UAPA Case

JNU student leader Umar Khalid. Image Courtesy: PTI

New Delhi: In a much-anticipated hearing, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant bail to former JNU student Umar Khalid. The former student leader has been in custody for over two years in a UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) case in connection with the alleged ‘larger conspiracy’ behind the Delhi Riots of February 2020. 

“We do not find any merit in the bail appeal. The bail appeal is dismissed,” a bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar said, the PTI reported.

Justice Bhatnagar authored the judgment upholding the trial court’s decision that the accusations against Khalid were “prima facie true”, the Indian Express reported.

Khalid had moved the HC against the order of Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat of Karkardooma District Court, who had rejected the activist’s regular bail application. The HC bench had on September 9 reserved its order on Khalid’s plea against the dismissal of his bail application by the trial court.

Khalid sought bail on the ground that he neither had any “criminal role” in the violence in the city’s north-east area nor any “conspiratorial connect” with any other accused in the case, the PTI reported.

According to reports, the prosecution has alleged that Khalid had attended several meetings from December 2019 to February 2020 as part of a “conspiracy” to cause the riots. The Delhi police chargesheet said that Khalid was a member of WhatsApp groups like Delhi Protests Support Group (DPSG) and Muslim Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

However, Khalid submitted that there is no material to support the case of the prosecution against him and his Amravati speech in February 2020 not only had a categorical call for non-violence but also did not lead to violence anywhere.

While issuing notice in Khalid’s plea earlier, the bench had observed that his Amravati speech was obnoxious, hateful, offensive and prima facie not acceptable, especially about the use of the word ‘jumla’ in relation to the Prime Minister. However, the bench later observed that even if the speech was in “bad taste”, it could not amount to a “terrorist act.”

The Delhi Police opposed the bail plea, saying the speech delivered by Khalid was “very calculated” and brought up issues like Babri Masjid, triple talaq, Kashmir, the alleged suppression of Muslims and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). They contended that the speeches delivered by various accused in the case have one common factor: the “essence was to create a sense of fear in the Muslim population," the PTI reported.

Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, who is representing Khalid, had submitted that five WhatsApp groups were cited in the Delhi Police’s chargesheet, but Khalid was a member of only two of them and posted messages in only one. The four messages posted by him included the location of a protest site and information regarding his communication with a police officer who wanted people to de-escalate the protests, Pais was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

He added, “No eyewitness or any witness speaks of his presence in any situation of violence in any part of Delhi during the protest against CAA. Not a single witness of alleged violence has spoken against him.” Pais also said that the statements against Khalid were very proximate to his arrest “indicating some material was being built up just before his arrest”.

Khalid, a scholar and researcher, is an accused in the FIR 59 along with the Pinjra Tod members Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal; Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal, and student activist Gulfisha Fatima. Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain and several others have also been booked under the stringent UAPA in the case. Khalid and JNU student Sharjeel Imam were the last to be chargesheeted in the case. Zargar, Kalita, Narwal, Tanha and Jahan were granted bail last year.

Following the High Court’s order, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan tweeted saying, “The rejection of Umar Khalid’s bail by the Delhi HC is unjust. There is absolutely no credible evidence against Umar reg his involvement with any conspiracy or violent activity. On the contrary videos of all his speeches show him preaching non violence even in response to violence.” 

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