SC to hear Umar Khalid bail appeal on July 24, says will take 1 or 2 minutes
Student activist Umar Khalid was arrested on September 13, 2020 and named as one among the 18 accused in the conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing on student activist Umar Khalid’s appeal for bail in the main conspiracy case of the 2020 Delhi riots case after the Delhi police sought more time to file its response citing a voluminous case record.
The court will take up the activist’s plea on July 24.
Umar Khalid, who has been behind bars for more than two years following his arrest on September 13, 2020, petitioned the Supreme Court for bail in April after the Delhi high court rejected his bail plea on October 18 last year.
On May 16, the top court gave police nearly two months to respond to the bail petition filed by Khalid, who was booked under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, in the case for being the alleged “mastermind” of the February 2020 riots in north-east Delhi. The violence, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured, erupted during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
As a bench of justices AS Bopanna and MM Sundresh took up the case on Wednesday, lawyer Rajat Nair, appearing for the Delhi police, sought an adjournment because of the state’s inability to file a response.
“The charge sheet runs into thousands of pages. Grant us some reasonable time to file our response,” Nair said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Khalid, remarked, “It has been two years now that he is inside jail. Why is a reply needed in a bail matter.”
Realizing that the next date, July 24, falls on a Monday when the Supreme Court has a relatively heavy board of fresh matters, Nair informed the court that the law officers will also be busy on that day and sought a slight accommodation to have the matter kept Tuesday.
“It is for us to decide whether the board is heavy or not. This is a matter which may take one or two minutes,” the bench said, refusing to alter the date.
Khalid’s plea was decided by the high court after arguments presented by both sides over three weeks.
The Delhi police had alleged that Khalid made provocative speeches at different locations and made an appeal to people to protest and block the streets. These speeches coincided with the visit of the then US President Donald Trump to Delhi. The police alleged that all this was done to publicise before the global community that minorities were being targeted and discriminated against in India.
In its ruling, the high court said, “Having carefully gone through the charge sheet and taking into consideration the fact that the appellant (Khalid) was in constant touch with other co-accused persons...at this stage, it is difficult to form an opinion that there are not reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the petitioner is prima facie not proved.”
The high court observed that under the anti-terror law, even an attempt to commit or knowingly facilitate the commission of a terrorist act is a punishable act. In this regard, the high court found that Khalid’s name found a “recurring mention from the beginning of the conspiracy till the culmination of the ensuing riots.”
Under section 43D of UAPA, a stringent condition is placed on courts to be first satisfied that reasonable grounds exist for believing that the accusation against the accused is prima facie true. Once such a conclusion is made out based on the evidence gathered, courts usually refrain from granting bail.
The order further observed that his involvement was found by the police in engineering protests against CAA. “The protest planned was not a typical protest normal in political culture or democracy but one far more destructive and injurious geared towards extremely grave consequences,” the high court observed.
Khalid has sought bail on the ground that the police failed to physically recover anything from him in connection with the allegations levelled against him. He further claimed that the evidence gathered against him had several material inconsistencies and could not be relied upon to incriminate him.