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Protestors In Anti-CAA Agitation Want To Be A Part Of India, Did Not Terrorize Or Threaten Sovereignty: Umar Khalid Argues For Bail In Delhi HC

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
23 May 2022 11:56 AM GMT
Protestors In Anti-CAA Agitation Want To Be A Part Of India, Did Not Terrorize Or Threaten Sovereignty: Umar Khalid Argues For Bail In Delhi HC
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Seeking bail in the Delhi riots larger conspiracy case, student activist Umar Khalid on Monday argued before the Delhi High Court that the main aim of citizens protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act was to retain the unity and integrity of India.

He submitted that the protestors wish to be a part of the country and were opposing an allegedly discriminatory criteria of granting/ denying citizenship to a certain class of persons.

The submission was made before a division bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar which is hearing the appeal filed by Umar Khalid challenging the Trial Court's order refusing him bail in case involving UAPA charges alleging a larger conspiracy in the riots of 2020.

Umar Khalid was arrested on 13 September, 2020 and has been under custody since. Earlier, while issuing notice in the appeal, the Court had said that the speech delivered by Umar Khalid at Amravati, was obnoxious, hateful, offensive and prima facie not acceptable.

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Opposing the charges under UAPA for alleged terrorism, Senior Advocate Trideep Pais appearing for Umar Khalid at the outset submitted,

"The protests were against an unjust law by persons who want to be a part of the country. It is in no way an act against the Sovereign. It was not perpetrating violence which Section 15 UAPA contemplates. The lower court said impugned acts threatened the unity and integrity of India. These are the people who said CAA is discriminatory. They want to be part of India."

In this light, Pais contended that a 'terrorist act' as defined under Section 15 of UAPA is not made out. To buttress this argument, he referred to a judgment of the Supreme Court wherein the word "terrorism" was discussed and it was held that Terrorism does not merely arise by causing disturbance of law and order or of public order. In fact, Terrorism is an act that travels beyond the capacity of ordinary law agency to tackle under ordinary penal law; It is attempt to acquire power or control by intimidation and cause fear in large section of people.

He also referred to the case of Kartar Singh v. State Of Punjab, where Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of TADA but clarified that Terrorism is a grave emergent situation created by external forces or by anti-nationals throwing a challenge to the very existence and sovereignty of the country in its democratic polity.

Pais argued that in the instant case, the protests were against an unjust law by persons who want to be a part of the country and it was in no way an act against the sovereign.

At this juncture, Justice Mridul stated that as per precedents, terrorism is an act done with a view to disturb the even tempo of society, create a sense of fear in mind of a section of society.

Pais responded that while it may have been the case, the chargesheet does not reflect it. He added that the Court has to see whether the perpetrators individually or in connection with each other are responsible for it.

"So your case is that there was a sense of insecurity instilled in public but you had nothing to do with it?" Justice Mridul asked.

Pais responded that the alleged fear was not as grave. "We should not fall in the "trap" of interpreting everything as terror," he added.

Pais then referred to several witness statements in connection with alleged "conspiracy" meetings to submit that many persons who were part of such meetings have not been made accused and the witness statements neither implicated any illegality to have perpetuated in these meetings nor assigned any role to Umar Khalid per se.

"There is nothing criminal about a meeting planning protests where there is no call for violence...People against whom active roles of preparing protest have been given are left out, they are not accused. This is the enigma that this chargesheet is. This amplifies my submission that my views and my speech was unpalatable and I suffer incarceration as a result of it. Your Lordship will find an abiding scheme where constantly an attempt is being made to establish connections, which has no basis. The mantra is keep on repeating things. The (lower court) judge got influenced with repeated mention of my name," Pais submitted.

The submission was made in context of a finding by the lower court that Umar Khalid's name finds a recurring mention from the beginning of the conspiracy till the riots.

So far as allegations pertaining to Khalid's connection with Sharjeel Imam is concerned, Pais submitted that the two follow different ideologies and are in no way connected to each other.

"There was absolutely no consensus between people who were opposed to CAA. They are divergent people with different school of thoughts. Imam criticized a secular movement against CAA and I do not agree with it. I am being lumped with a person who calls for a deeply communal protest against CAA. There is no ideological meeting of minds," Pais argued.

He added that the lower court has misinterpreted witness statements to draw a connection between Khalid and Imam, whereas the two have never even spoken to each other.

"There is no communication between me and Sharjeel Imam. I have never spoken to the man. At best we have been in one meeting. They seized my phone. My chats will reflect it. Not a whisper of anything being deleted. Sharjeel Imam was arrested much before that. His phone would also show. I have no connection with Sharjeel Imam which is being sought to be established merely because I was added to a Whatsapp group (of Muslim students of JNU) in which I did not participate. A mere membership of a group has been made an offence in this order. I have not sent a single message on this group."

Hearing will continue tomorrow, in the post lunch session.

Case Title: Umar Khalid v. NCT of Delhi

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