The Delhi High Court Friday reserved its order on activist Umar Khalid’s bail appeal in the case of the alleged larger conspiracy behind the Northeast Delhi riots, 140 days after it began hearing submissions in the matter.
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, representing Khalid, before the bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar argued that the only commonality between his speeches and the statements given by co-accused, including Sharjeel Imam, is vehement opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“Is the opposition to scrapping Article 370 or to (criminalization of) triple talaq or to the Citizenship Amendment Act illegal in itself? No! To show that two persons are opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Act… there are several… former judges have made statements against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Other than showing this commonality, there is nothing to prove what the Hon’ble judges of the Supreme Court call as ‘meeting of minds’,” Pais said, while contending there is no conspiracy in the case.
Khalid’s counsel further submitted that the witness statements cited by the prosecution or Delhi Police as evidence are without any basis and cannot be even considered prima facie. Police have booked the accused, including Khalid, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the case and they are required by law to meet a stringent test to be considered for bail.
“Take an overall view, whether this chargesheet with all the little little pieces put together – as if there was a conspiracy, with no link to actual violence, will lead to a conviction,” he said in court, while arguing in context of the UAPA bail rule.
With regard to the speech given by Khalid in Amravati, Pais said the same did not lead to any violence and cannot be termed a spark in the powder keg for something that happened in Delhi. The speech does not show any conspiracy with any other accused, he said.
“He was not asking Amravati people to come to Delhi. We have a liberty to travel anywhere (in) India and give speeches if you want to. He does not need to have a connection to Maharashtra to go to Maharashtra,” submitted Pais, adding, “in the context of that speech, he raises the same issues that many have raised”.
Pais argued that the prosecution has to prove the conspiracy was towards violence in Delhi and “not towards raising issues of injustice”. “My speech has a categorical call for a non-violence and I request your lordships to read the speech as a whole and not in the manner in which my learned friend (counsel representing prosecution) wants to dissect it – take one sentence and (lace it with) his own conjectures,” he submitted.
Khalid’s counsel also submitted that more than 750 FIRs, that were registered in connection with the riots which took place in February 2020, do not have any connection to the FIR alleging conspiracy behind the riots. Pais also argued that merely advocating for chakka jam or dharna or describing the difference between the two would not make Khalid’s acts criminal.
“After filing four chargesheets, they are saying they are further investigating. There is no end in sight for the trial with 850 witnesses to go to,” submitted Pais.
Khalid’s counsel had started arguments on April 22 in the matter and concluded on July 28 – the case was listed on 14 dates between April and July but the hearing did not take place on all the fixed days due to various reasons. The prosecution began arguments on August 1 – between last month and September 7, the case was listed on 12 dates. Khalid, who was arrested on September 13 in 2020, was denied bail by the trial court on March 24 this year.