Umar Khalid completes one year in jail but it is still not clear why
The charge that he engineered the Delhi riots was based on a video clip tweeted by BJP's IT Cell chief and aired by TV channels, which were not even present when he delivered a speech in Maharashtra
This chargesheet is a joke, fumed senior lawyer Trideep Pais in a Delhi sessions court while arguing on a bail petition to release Umar Khalid, former JNU student activist, who has been in jail since September 13, 2020.
Delhi Police arrested Umar Khalid as a main conspirator of Delhi riots of February 2020. The charge sheet described him as a ‘veteran of sedition’ claiming that in 2016 he had raised the slogan, ‘Bharat Tere Tukde Honge’ (the 2016 chargesheet, however, does not say Khalid raised any such slogan).
Charged under the draconian UAPA, the Arms Act, Damage to Public Property Act and various sections of the IPC, the chargesheet is based on a speech that the accused delivered in Amravati (Maharashtra) on January 17, more than a month before the Delhi riots.
Delhi Police filed an FIR on March 6 in which the speech is not mentioned. It cropped up in the chargesheet. Although Umar Khalid has pleaded that he was not even present in Delhi during the rioting, the chargesheet accuses him of having planned to be outside Delhi during the riots.
Delhi Police admitted in court that it had relied on a news video broadcast by Republic TV and News 18. Delhi Police had asked the TV channels to produce the complete video of the speech. But in their reply the channels, the court was informed, maintained that the video clip they broadcast was from a Tweet by BJP leader and its IT Cell chief Amit Malviya. They did not have the video and their own journalists were not present on the ground to hear what Umar Khalid said.
Pais played the complete video in court and pointed out that there was nothing in the speech that was seditious or an instigation to violence. What Khalid actually said in the speech was “Aap hamare khilaf hinsa karenge...Hum jhande fehrayenge... Hum haste haste jail jaayenge (If you act violently against us...We will unfurl the flag...We will happily go to jail).”
Pais also questioned Delhi Police relying on the statement of a Prosecution witness who claims to have seen Umar Khalid meeting some of the co-accused and entering an office building together. “Three people meeting and going inside is not conspiracy,” Pais said sarcastically. He also pointed out that the same PW had been inconsistent and given different statement at different times.
This is not a chargesheet but reads like a script for Amazon Prime’s web series, ‘Family Man’, he quipped. At one point during the argument, Pais drew a parallel between 9 pm news bulletins on TV channels and the chargesheet. The advocate accused the police of filing a chargesheet that seemed more like the script of a 9 pm news show.
Umar Khalid had been granted bail in April in another case related to Delhi riots. The court had pointed out that neither was Khalid shown to be physically present on the spot. No CCTV footage, viral video or police and independent witness was there to identify him in the mob, the court had observed while granting bail.
But the former student activist remained in jail in the ‘conspiracy case’ which he has described as a figment of imagination by Delhi Police. Delhi Police have opposed the bail plea, which will now be heard on September 23.