Umar Khalid Withdraws Bail Petition In Supreme Court, To Seek Bail From Trial Court Afresh

Awstika Das

14 Feb 2024 5:57 AM GMT

  • Umar Khalid Withdraws Bail Petition In Supreme Court, To Seek Bail From Trial Court Afresh

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 14) dismissed as withdrawn the petition filed former JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid's bail plea in connection with the Delhi riots larger conspiracy case.Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, for Khalid, submitted that the petition is being withdrawn in view of "change in circumstances" and to seek bail afresh before the trial court."Bail matter we wish...

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 14) dismissed as withdrawn the petition filed former JNU scholar and activist Umar Khalid's bail plea in connection with the Delhi riots larger conspiracy case.

    Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, for Khalid, submitted that the petition is being withdrawn in view of "change in circumstances" and to seek bail afresh before the trial court.

    "Bail matter we wish to withdraw. There has been a change in circumstances, we will try our luck in the trial court, " Sibal said.

    Accordingly, the bench comprising Justices Bela Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal dismissed the petition as withdrawn. Sibal however clarified that he will argue the separate writ petition filed by Khalid challenging the constitutionality of the provisions of UAPA.

    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.

    The bench was hearing Khalid's special leave petition challenging the decision of the Delhi High Court to deny him bail in October 2022. The former JNU student has also filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging various provisions of the anti-terror statute. The top court has tagged this plea with earlier petitions filed challenging the constitutionality of UAPA provisions. Later, it decided to hear the batch of petitions challenging UAPA provisions along with Khalid's bail application.

    This case has also witnessed the recusal of one of the judges, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, who was slated to hear it in August last year. The hearing has been adjourned several 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, on August 18, when the matter was listed on a miscellaneous day, on September 5 at the behest of the petitioner, on September 12 to allow the bench to go through the evidence on record, on October 12 owing to a paucity of time, on October 31 to hear the bail application with Khalid's writ petition, on January 10 on the joint request of both sides, and on January 24 on account of the constitution of a special bench slated to hear another matter. The matter was slated to be heard January 31, February 1, and February 7, but saw adjournments on these days as well, as Sibal was engaged with a Constitution Bench hearing.

    Background

    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 High Court division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani in 2021.

    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 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 2023, 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.

    Case Title

    Umar Khalid v. State of NCT of Delhi | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 6857 of 2023

    Click Here To Read/Download Order

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