Delhi HC Denies Bail To Umar Khalid: What Transpired In Court Till Now

Umar Khalid moved to the HC in April after his bail plea was rejected by a trial court.

Umar Khalid

The Delhi High Court today turned down the bail plea of JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid. Khalid was arrested for his alleged role in the conspiracy behind the North-east Delhi riots of February, 2020 which officially left 53 dead and more than 700 injured.

Ruling out the prospect of bail the bench of Justice Siddharth Mirdul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar said, “There is no merit in the bail appeal. Bail appeal is dismissed.” The bench had reserved orders of the bail plea on September 9.

After being denied the bail in the trial court, Khalid moved to the HC in April. In his submission he sought the bail on the ground that neither he had any ‘criminal role’ in the violence, nor had any ‘conspiratorial connect’ with any of the accused.

The activist was booked by Delhi police under several charges including Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), The Arms Act, and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. He was arrested on September 13, 2020. It has been more than two years that Khalid has been behind the bars.

Terming the denial of bail to Umar 'unjust', the senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan tweeted, "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."

Umar Khalid’s Submission to the HC

While representing Khalid the senior advocate Trideep Pais cited lack of evidence against the scholar activist. He mentioned that though the chargesheet of Delhi police cites five WhatsApp groups, Khalid was only active in two of them and posted message in only one. He also added that the four messages he posted in the group were related to the location of protest sites and his conversation with a Police officer who wanted the anti-CAA protests to be de-escalated, reports the Indian Express.

Citing that not a single witness of the alleged riots in the North-East Delhi spoke of his presence during the violence, he indicated that “some material was being built up just before his arrest.”

Referring to the 17 incidents that were mentioned in the chargesheet, Pais said that for eight of them there is no witness. He pointed to his alleged statements for which he was actually believed to provoke the riots and said that the only thing common among the statements of his co-accused including Sharjeel Imam was their anti-CAA stance. Notably, the 17 incidents that the charge sheet maintains don’t have any connection except their vociferous opposition against the CAA and calls for protests and Chakka Jam, added the counsel.

Putting forth the question of democracy, Pais asked, “Is the opposition to scrapping Article 370 or to [criminalisation of] triple talaq or to the Citizenship Amendment Act illegal in itself? No! To show that two persons are opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Act … there are several … former judges have made statements against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Other than showing this commonality, there is nothing to prove what the Hon’ble judges of the Supreme Court call a ‘meeting of minds.”

In specific reference to his Amaravati speech where Khalid had allegedly delivered provocative statements Pais submitted, “He was not asking Amravati people to come to Delhi. We have the liberty to travel anywhere to India and give speeches if we want to. He does not need to have a connection to Maharashtra to go to Maharashtra.”

He further requested the court to read the speech as a whole, not in fragments with some added conjectures. On Khalid’s behalf he said, “My speech has a categorical call for non-violence and I request your lordships to read the speech as a whole and not in the manner in which my learned friend [counsel representing prosecution] wants to dissect it – take one sentence and [lace it with] his own conjectures.”

The Arguments of Prosecution against the Bail

Ruling out the innocence of Khalid, the prosecution represented by Amit Prasad said that trial court has properly gone through the evidences and there is no infirmity in its case. The Trial court took the view that Khalid was present in different WhatsApp groups and was connected to the many accused in the riots.

Prasad referring to Amaravati speech maintained that it was a very ‘calculative’ speech as it didn’t limit to the references of CAA-NRC, rather it focussed only on Muslim issues like Babri Masjid, lynching and so on.

The prosecution also said that there were plans behind arranging the anti-CAA protests near the Masjid. He also noted that the movement of Shaheen Bagh was also motivated and was not voluntarily led by the women.

Significantly, though Khalid has already spent two years in Jail, it’s a long way to go as there are some 850 witnesses to be examined.

The JNU Scholar had been booked under section 43D (5) of the UAPA where the court can’t grant bail if the person is accused under chapter IV and chapter VI and have reasonable grounds to believe that the allegations against him are prima facie true.