Umar Khalid withdraws bail petition, cites 'change in circumstances'

His legal team, led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, want to try their luck in the trial court again, rather than approach the Supreme Court

Student leader Umar Khalid, whose bail plea has been pending in the Supreme Court since May 2023 after multiple adjourned hearings (photo: National Herald archives)
Student leader Umar Khalid, whose bail plea has been pending in the Supreme Court since May 2023 after multiple adjourned hearings (photo: National Herald archives)

Ashlin Mathew

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid has withdrawn his bail petition from the Supreme Court in the Delhi riots conspiracy case pending against him since May 2023, citing a “change in circumstances”.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Khalid, stated before the Supreme Court bench of justices Bela Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal that there had been a change in circumstances. “We wish to withdraw the bail matter. We will try our luck in the trial court,” said Sibal.

Accordingly, the judges dismissed the petition as withdrawn. Khalid’s bail plea had been pending in the Supreme Court since May 2023 and the hearing of it had been adjourned 12 times since then.

Khalid filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court's decision. The lawyers have said that since the time bail was refused by the High Court in October 2022, there have been changes in the circumstances of the case.

The bail plea was last listed in the Supreme Court on 31 January 2024, but it was adjourned again because there were several other matters ahead of Khalid’s case.

Khalid was arrested on 13 September 2020 under the UAPA for his alleged involvement in the riots in north-east Delhi in February 2020. He stands accused of being one of the “key conspirators” in the riots.

The Delhi Police FIR against Khalid includes charges under sections 13, 16, 17 and 18 of the UAPA, sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.

The bench was set to consider a set of writ petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the UAPA, along with Khalid's bail petition.

  • The hearing date in the case was first issued on 18 May 2023, and when it came up on 12 July, Delhi Police sought time to file additional details.

  • On 24 July, Khalid’s lawyers sought an adjournment.

  • Then, on 9 August, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra recused himself from the case and it was adjourned to 17 August.

  • On 17 August, Khalid’s bail plea was dropped from the Supreme Court's case list, as it had now been listed before a bench of justices A.S. Bopanna and Mishra already.

  • On 5 September, the bail plea was put before a division bench comprising justices Trivedi and Dipankar Datta. It had to be adjourned again on that date as Sibal was unavailable, since he was arguing the abrogation of Article 370 before the Chief Justice of India on the same day.

  • The case was then listed on 12 September before a bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Trivedi, who said the case would have to be heard and decided by going through the documentary evidence. During this hearing, Sibal had said several provisions of the UAPA—including those concerning terrorism, raising funds for terrorist acts and conspiracy—did not apply in the case. The bench adjourned the case to 12 October.

  • On 12 October, the bail plea was not heard by a bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela Trivedi citing "paucity of time". The case was pushed to 1 November 2023.

  • Before the hearing on 1 November, the same bench, on 31 October, tagged Khalid's bail plea with other cases challenging the constitutional validity of several provisions of the the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. As Sibal was unavailable on the said date due a hearing in front of a Constitution bench, the case was adjourned to 22 November, when it did not come up.

  • It was pointed out to the same bench, on 29 November, that another case on Tripura violence which had been tagged along with this had been heard eight times by the CJI, so the cases should be transferred to him. It was refused. As ASV Raju and Sibal were unavailable, the case was pushed to January 2024.

  • It then came up on 10 January, 24 January, 31 January and 7 February. On all the days, the case was adjourned or not heard.

  • On 14 February, the bail plea was withdrawn from the Supreme Court.

Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and several others have been booked under the anti-terror law UAPA and several provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 riots, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

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