SC defers Umar Khalid bail plea for seventh time, to be heard on 1 Nov

Khalid's lawyer Kapil Sibal said he could start arguing immediately and prove within 20 minutes that there was no case against the former JNU student at all

Umar Khalid (photo: Getty Images)
Umar Khalid (photo: Getty Images)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court adjourned hearing of the appeal for bail filed by former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid to 1 November 2023 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) over his alleged involvement in the larger conspiracy behind the northeast Delhi riots of February 2020, citing shortage of time. This is the seventh time that the case has been adjourned.

The deferment comes despite an objection from Khalid’s lawyer Kapil Sibal that he has been in jail for more than three years and “charges are yet to be framed”. A bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Dipankar Datta said the case would be listed on 1 November within the first five case items. Trivedi said the case would be taken up on Thursday only if they could finish arguing on the same day.

Sibal said he could start arguing immediately and prove within 20 minutes that there was no case at all. “There is no case at all. He is a young student, PhD holder, who has been behind bars for three years, it is going on. If we keep deferring it, it will keep going on. Let’s keep it for next week,” Sibal requested.

"There's no chance of framing charges yet, how long will you keep him there? This is not a matter that they should oppose like this. He hasn’t committed any act, they have admitted it too. The only thing is there is some conspiracy they are talking about. None of the sections apply,” Sibal pointed out. He added that three co-accused in the case — Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, and Asif Iqbal Tanha — have been granted bail by Delhi High Court.

Appearing for Delhi Police, additional solicitor general SV Raju was in favour of deferring the hearing and stated that Thursdays were usually for miscellaneous matters and the case would take long to hear. “I will take at least one hour,” added Raju. The bench then decided to adjourn the case to 1 November.

In the earlier hearing on 12 September, a bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi 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.

Before that, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra recused from the case when it was set to be heard in September. The hearing in the case was issued on 18 May and when it came up on 12 July, Delhi Police sought time to file additional details. On 24 July, Khalid’s lawyers sought adjournment. Then, on 9 August, Justice Misha recused from the case, which was adjourned on 18 August, 5 September, and 12 September.

Khalid had been arrested on 13 September 2020 under UAPA for his alleged involvement in the riots of northeast Delhi in February 2020, and has been accused of being one of the “key conspirators” in the riots.

The Delhi Police FIR against Khalid contains charges including 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.

Khalid had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging Delhi High Court's decision to deny him bail last year.

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