Background – Delhi Riots Conspiracy Case
Umar Khalid, an activist and a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, rose to national fame when the central government filed sedition charges against him. He was involved in Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition row. He is also accused of being involved in the Bhima Koregaon incident and Delhi Riots conspiracy case.
The Delhi Riots resulted in the deaths of 53 people in North East Delhi. On March 6, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police filed a first information report. As recounted in the FIR, a senior inspector claimed that an informer told him that the February communal violence was the result of an attempted conspiracy by former JNU student leader Umar Khalid and his associates. In the Delhi riots conspiracy case, activist Umar Khalid was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The Delhi police charged him for alleged “provocative speeches” he made during Donald Trump’s visit to India. Delhi Police argued that his speeches instigated and facilitated the Delhi riots of 2020. In the FIR, it was alleged that Khalid and his associates mobilized children and women to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi. It is alleged that they collected ammunition and weapons inside homes.
The Delhi Police Special Cell arrested Khalid as an alleged conspirator in the Delhi Riots case on September 13, 2020. In charge sheets, the police have said Khalid met Aam Aadmi Party’s councillor Tahir Hussain and activist Khalid Saifi on January 8, 2020 at the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest site against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) to allegedly plan the riots. In connection with Delhi riots 2020, the Delhi Police has filed a supplementary charge sheet against Umar Khalid. The first information report (FIR) on the Delhi riots conspiracy case includes stringent charges under:
- Sections 13, 16, 17, 18 of the UAPA
- Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act
- Section 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act,1984
- various offences included in the IPC, 1860. (Related to criminal conspiracy, murder, rioting, sedition, unlawful assembly and promoting enmity on the grounds of religion, language, caste, etc)
The police said this is a multi-layered conspiracy and a pre-planned riot, and there is enough evidence to proceed against Khalid. A Delhi court acknowledged the chargesheet in early January 2021, stating – ‘..there is sufficient evidence to proceed against Khalid under Section 204 CrPC’. Delhi Police have registered more than 750 cases and filed more than 250 charge sheets. UAPA has also been filed against JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Jamia Millia Islamia’s Asif Iqbal Tanha, former Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, and other individuals.
The Delhi High Court on April 15 granted bail to Umar Khalid in connection with the Delhi riots case and directed him to furnish a bond of Rs 20,000 for his bail. However, Khalid continued to be in jail in connection with the UAPA case against him.
Court Hearing on 23 August [UAPA Case]
Umar Khalid was represented by Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, while the State was represented by Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad. A hearing on Khalid’s bail plea was originally scheduled for August 20, but the date was pushed forward after an early hearing application was filed on his behalf.
Khalid’s lawyer told the additional sessions judge that the case against him comes from video clips run by Republic TV and News 18 that showed ‘truncated versions’ of Khalid’s words.
Republic TV has admitted that it broadcasted a clip that was based on a tweet by BJP member Amit Malviya. Senior Advocate Trideep Pais read out the reply given by Republic TV to a demand made by the police under Section 91 of the CrPC for a copy of the video footage. The channel said “The footage was not recorded by our cameraperson. It was tweeted by Mr Amit Malviya.”
The advocate for News 18 said the channel had deleted sentences from Khalid’s speech, which changed its meaning and context. Upon showing the video, the lawyer informed the court that his client had not spoken in a way that would be considered violent and, instead, had spoken of unity.
The lawyers representing Khalid added
A message of unity based on Gandhiji was given by Umar Khalid that day. It was termed as terror. Content is not seditious. He is talking about democratic power. He referred to Gandhi.
Umar Khalid’s lawyer said that Khalid had been framed by the press and the press has cut out the other parts of speech to defame him.
Senior Advocate Pais also told the court that Khalid is not named in a single FIR and arrested in one, in which he is on bail. FIR 59 is an FIR that is unnecessary and has been drafted and filed in order to target people selectively based on their importance to opposition and CAA. As per the police case, Khalid conspired with other accused in January to create riots during President Trump’s visit; however, the news about Trump’s visit was announced only in February. The counsel thus claimed that the chargesheet is a complete fabrication.
The matter has been adjourned and will be taken up for further arguments on Sept 3 and 6.