12 July 2023 6:14 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing in the bail plea of former JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid, who has been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in the larger conspiracy surrounding the communal violence that broke out in February 2020 in the Indian capital. Khalid has been behind bars since September 2020,...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing in the bail plea of former JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid, who has been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in the larger conspiracy surrounding the communal violence that broke out in February 2020 in the Indian capital. Khalid has been behind bars since September 2020, awaiting his trial.
A bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and MM Sundresh is considering Khalid’s plea challenging the decision of the Delhi High Court to deny him bail last year.
During the brief hearing today, the counsel for the Delhi police sought more time to file a counter-affidavit. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Khalid, protested, saying, "What counter is there to file? It's a bail plea. The man is in custody for two years and eleven months."
Initially, the bench conceded to the request for adjournment and directed for the matter to be listed this Friday. However, the police's counsel prayed for more time. Justice Bopanna expressed his disapproval over the request for additional time, telling the counsel, "You should have been ready today."
The counsel defended himself, saying, "The charge sheet is voluminous, running into thousands of pages. I was given the papers two days ago."
Finally, the bench agreed to adjourn the bail hearing till Monday, July 24. In response to the concern of the police's counsel that the board may be too 'heavy' on Monday, Justice Bopanna firmly said, "Whether, on Monday, the board is heavy, we have to decide."
"May take 1-2 minutes for this", Justice Sundresh added.
Khalid, a former scholar and researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, is one of the accused in the larger conspiracy case relating to the 2020 North-East Delhi communal riots case. He has been accused along with 59 others, including Pinjra Tod members Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, and student activist Gulfisha Fatima.
Others who have been charge-sheeted in the case include former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, and Shifa-Ur-Rehman, former Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, activist Khalid Saifi, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Mohd Salim Khan, and Athar Khan.
Khalid and JNU student Sharjeel Imam were the last to be charge-sheeted in the case. Zargar, Kalita, Narwal, Tanha, and Jahan have already been granted bail. Kalita, Narwhal and Tanha were granted bail by a division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani last year.
Khalid has been booked under Sections 13, 16, 17, and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act, 1959, and Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.
Last year, in October, the Delhi High Court upheld a March 2022 order of a trial court denying Khalid bail. A division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar observed that the protests against Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) were geared towards the 2020 North-East Delhi riots through various ‘conspiratorial meetings’ held from December 2019 till February 2020, some of which were also attended by Khalid.
In the order, the high court also took a serious view of Khalid using the words ‘inquilabli salam’ (revolutionary salute) and ‘krantikari istiqbal’ (revolutionary welcome) in a speech given in Amaravati in February 2020, considering it to be an incitement of violence. “Revolution by itself isn’t always bloodless, which is why it is contradistinctly used with the prefix - a ‘bloodless’ revolution. So, when we use the expression ‘revolution’, it is not necessarily bloodless,” the Delhi High Court observed. During the case, the bench also questioned the UAPA accused for using the word ‘jumla’ against the prime minister, remarking that there should be a ‘lakshman rekha’ for criticism.
Khalid challenged the Delhi High Court’s verdict before the Supreme Court and in May of this year, a bench headed by Justice Bopanna issued notice in his plea and sought the response of the Delhi police. Earlier that month, another bench of the apex court had dismissed Delhi police’s plea against a high court order granting bail to co-accused Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita.
Umar Khalid v. State of NCT of Delhi | Diary No. 14476 of 2023