Seeking bail in the Delhi riots larger conspiracy case, student activist Umar Khalid on Friday argued before the Delhi High Court that using the word 'revolution' in his speech given at Amravati in February 2020 was not a crime and that there was no call for violence or incitement of any sort in the same.
A division bench comprising of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar was 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.
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais appearing for Umar Khalid was referring to the earlier query put forth by the Bench with regards to the use of words like 'inqalab' and 'krantikaari' while delivering the Amravati speech.
While the Bench today asked Pais the context in which the words were used in the speech, Pais argued by no stretch of imagination can it be said that the speech was a call for violence, which was evident from the fact that the crowd was peacefully sitting in the chairs without being agitated or excited.
At the outset, Justice Bhatnagar asked Pais about the words used in the speech regarding the Prime Minister like 'Hindustan me sab changa nahi' 'hindustan me Modi nanga si'.
Pais argued that the words were used as metaphor to show that the real and practical issues of the Country were being hidden in reality. Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar however remarked, "Some other words could have been used for the Prime Minister."
To this, Pais responded "A speech is made on the 17 February, we all have our views about it. That doesn't make it as a crime. How is this terror or exhortation of violence?"
"Please see the visuals. That's the stage, there is a shamiana, a backdrop, the audience sitting on chairs... there is absolutely no chaos, no violence or nobody is getting excited. Your lordships is today seeing whether there was any terror due to this speech."
On this, Justice Bhatnagar orally remarked "He said 'sab nanga si'. Whether mahatma gandhi ji mentioned any of these words against the queen? He is again and again saying we will follow Mahatma Gandhi ji."
Pais responded by saying that in a democratic setup, various methods are used to arrive at a conclusion or in exposing what the Government of the day is doing and that one such way is by use of words and speeches.
Pais then apprised the Bench about the literal meanings of the words used in the speech like 'inqalab' and 'kraantikaari'. To this, Justice Mridul said:
"You used the expression inqalab and krantikaari. Reference to inqalab zindabad is possibly not relevant for this theory. All of us know what inqalab zindabad means. You used the expressions inqalab and krantikaari. That's what we asked you."
Referring to an historian who had explained the meanings of the words, Pais responded that the word inqalab, according to the historian, meant revolution whereas the word Inqalab zindabad meant long live the revolution.
"It's not a crime to use the word revolution," Pais argued.
He said "I used it in the context of the people standing against a discriminatory law and protesting against it."
"I was asking for a change in law and asking that unjust law will have to be called back. That's also a revolution."
Pais also added it would be a stretch of imagination to call the speech in question a call for violence and that the words were used in the context of call for boycotting an unjust law.
"It sits well with a non violent protest and satyagrah towards change which is just," he added.
"People who thought of revolution either in sphere of politics or economics do not have to resort to violence. Thought of violence shouldn't be mixed up with the word revolution," he argued.
"My intention is to tell your lordships that revolution can be non violent and the speech was a call for non violence."
To this, Justice Mridul said "The call to revolution doesn't have to effect the immediate gathering. It may affect many beyond those who were physically present."
While concluding the hearing, the Bench said that since it was hearing the plea in a special bench, it would be convenient to hear the same on a day to day basis from Monday.
"We would like to finish this before the summer vacations," the Bench said.
Accordingly, the matter will now be heard on Monday at 2:15 PM.
Umar Khalid was denied bail by city's Karkardooma Court on March 24. He 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.
About the Trial Court Order
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat was of the view that Khalid had connectivity with many accused persons and that his presence throughout in several WhatsApp groups during the period beginning from the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in December 2019 till the February 2020 riots, had to be read in totality and not piecemeal.
On the other contention raised by Pais that Umar Khalid was not present in Delhi during the time of riots, the Court was of the view that in a case of a conspiracy, it is not necessary that every accused should be present at the spot.
Thus, perusing the chargesheet and accompanying documents, the Court was of the opinion that allegations against the Umar Khalid were prima facie true and hence the bar for grant of bail as per Section 43D of the UAPA was attracted.
The Court noted that Umar Khalid's name finds a recurring mention from the beginning of the conspiracy till the riots. He was a member of WhatsApp groups of Muslim students of JNU. He participated in various meetings. He gave reference to Mr.Donald Trump in his Amaravati speech. He was instrumental in creation of JCC. He was also mentioned in the flurry of calls that happened post-riots.
The Court opined that target was to block roads at mixed population areas and encircle the entire area completely stopping the entry and exit of citizens living there and then creating panic to attack on police personnel by women protesters in front only followed by other ordinary people and engulfing the area into a riots and the same would be covered by the definition of terrorist act under Section 15 of the UAPA.
The Case of Umar Khalid before Trial Court
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais had argued that while the protests against Citizenship Amendment Act were secular, it is the chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police which is communal. He had also submitted that while the prosecution pushed on claiming that chakka jam was equal to terror act, Chakka Jam is not an offence and that it has been used by students and others while participating in various agitations.
He added that the statements of 'cooked up witnesses' showed a pattern of 'false implication' in the chargesheet as well as FIR 59/2020. He argued that one of the witness' statements which was recorded three days prior to Umar Khalid's arrest was done in order to "suit the arrest".
What was the Prosecution's case before Trial Court?
Referring to sec. 15 of the UAPA Act which defines a terrorist act, Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad had argued that while the riots were meticulously planned, there was destruction of properties, disruption of essential services, use of petrol bombs, lathis, stones etc and therefore meeting the criteria which is required under 15(1)(a)(i),(ii) and (iii) of the Act.
Prasad had added that a total of 53 people died during the riots, 142 people were Injured in first phase of riots and other 608 were injured in the second phase.
He had argued that the 2020 sit-in protests were carefully planned, picking strategic protest sites closer to 25 mosques. He had submitted that these sites were places with religious significance but were purposely given Secular names to give legitimate appearance to the allegedly communal protests.
He had referred to a December 20, 2019 meeting which was attended by Umar Khalid with Harsh Mander, members of United Against Hate, Swatantra Nagrik Sangathan, etc. He had averred that this meeting was key in deciding the areas of protest and strategies to mitigate police clashes by keeping women at the forefront.