Delhi riots: Can UAPA be invoked for calling road blockades, asks Umar Khalid
Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid, arrested in the conspiracy case related to the north-east Delhi riots, on Tuesday told a city court that police have written fanciful stories in the charge sheet and asked whether he could be charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for calling for (road) blockades in the city.
Arguing his bail plea in the riots conspiracy case before additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat, senior advocate Trideep Pais told the court that the police wished to paint every accused with the same brush while giving a “tadka” (flavour) to it.
“Is chakka jam (blockade) an offence, does it invite UAPA? Is a meeting to say that our protest will involve chakka jam automatically a criminal conspiracy? Where does it say it’s a crime? This meeting has found itself on every news item, branded about like some great conspiracy,” Pais said.
“Your [prosecution] wish to paint every accused with one brush as if it was one conspiracy crumbles when you look at the charges sheet. Where do you get it from? You got it from your mind. Half of it is a fertile imagination. None of this is supported by any statement,” Pais further said.
Khalid, along with several others, has been booked under the stringent UAPA for “masterminding” the February 2020 north-east Delhi riots, in which 53 people were killed and over 700 injured.
The Delhi Police had earlier said Khalid’s bail plea had no merit and that it will demonstrate the prima facie case against Khalid before the court.
Pais, during the hearing on Tuesday, referred to three allegations made against the accused in the charge sheet, emphasizing that all three were the result of the fertile imagination of the police and had no consistency.
He submitted that the first allegation levelled by the police in the charge sheet was that JNU student Sharjeel Imam created a WhatsApp group of Muslim students on the directions of Khalid on December 4, 2019.
Denying this, he said, “Constituting a WhatsApp group of Muslim students, is it a terror? There is no witness to say that it was formed on the instance of Umar (Khalid). It is so easy to rope me in the charge sheet which is just a conjecture.”
The lawyer further said there was not even a single shred of communication between Imam and Khalid and no message was shared by the latter in the WhatsApp group.
“Just being in a group is not a crime,” the counsel said during the hour-long hearing.
He also denied the second allegation levelled by the police regarding a speech given by Khalid at a protest organised by United Against Hate (UAH) at Jantar Mantar on December 7, 2019, where, as per the prosecution, he also introduced Swaraj India president Yogender Yadav to Imam.
“Police said Imam was introduced to Yogender Yadav by Khalid, his senior and mentor. Senior, mentor – this ‘’tadka’’ (flavour) has been put by them. It is such a dangerous thing,” Pais said, referring to the charge sheet.
He also said the speech purportedly given by Khalid was produced by the police and there is no evidence that it incited anybody.
“The officer wants to tell the story but he forgets that he is not a storyteller; he is dealing with the law. Every assertion in the charge sheet must have a basis but this does not have any basis. They want to paint me with a single brush but do not have material for that,” Pais further said.
He said the third allegation against him was that he was allegedly part of a “secret meeting” held on December 8, 2019, where organising a chakka jaam (road blockade) was discussed.
The lawyer read out the statement of three prosecution witnesses and claimed that none of them described it as a secret meeting.
The trio did not sign it, and it was recorded after a delay, Pais claimed.
He said, “None of the witnesses spoke about a conspiracy, meeting of minds, or an illegal act. It is not my personal opinion or that of the officer who is writing these fanciful stories using words like a mentor, teachers, or whatever.”
“If I am the mastermind, then why are these witnesses not saying what suits you? Mere presence in a meeting or being a part of a WhatsApp group is not a crime. Attending a meeting is not a crime by any stretch of the imagination,” Pais said.
The court will now hear the bail plea on November 2.