5 Sep 2023 5:46 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the bail hearing of former JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid in connection with the Delhi riots larger conspiracy case, until next week. He has been behind bars since September 2020, awaiting his trial under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in the larger conspiracy surrounding the communal violence that broke...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the bail hearing of former JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid in connection with the Delhi riots larger conspiracy case, until next week.
He has been behind bars since September 2020, awaiting his trial 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 national capital.
A bench of Justices Bela Trivedi and Dipankar Dutta was hearing Khalid’s special leave petition challenging the decision of the Delhi High Court to deny him bail last year.
Today's hearing had to be adjourned since Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Khalid, was unavailable. Sibal was appearing before the constitution bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud hearing the pleas over the abrogation of Article 370 that stripped the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. The bench, however, was reluctant to grant an adjournment for the fifth time since May. Expressing her disapproval over the request for adjournment on behalf of the petitioner, Justice Trivedi remarked, "Mr Sibal is known to be busy. We do not wait for any particular senior counsel."
Despite its initial reluctance, the bench ultimately acceded to the adjournment request, but not before categorically saying that no such appeals would be entertained on the next day. "Last opportunity," Justice Trivedi told the counsel appearing for Khalid, before directing the matter to be re-listed next week.
This case has also witnessed the recusal of one of the judges, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, who was slated to hear it last month. The hearing has been adjourned four times since notice was issued by the top court in the activist's plea on May 18 – once on July 12 after the Delhi police sought more time to file a counter-affidavit, on July 24 after a letter of adjournment was circulated by Khalid's counsel, on August 9 after Justice Mishra recused himself, and again on August 18, when the matter was listed on a miscellaneous day. Khalid has spent over two years and eleven months under incarceration now.
Khalid, a former scholar and researcher from 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 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 world ‘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. 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 | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 6857 of 2023
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