Umar Khalid bail hearing adjourned to 21 March. Will he be heard this year?

In February 2024, Khalid withdrew his bail petition from the Supreme Court, hearing of which was adjourned 12 times

Umar Khalid (pictured) has been in jail since September 2020 in connection with the Delhi riots conspiracy case (photo: National Herald archives)
Umar Khalid (pictured) has been in jail since September 2020 in connection with the Delhi riots conspiracy case (photo: National Herald archives)

Ashlin Mathew

A trial court in Delhi adjourned the hearing of a bail plea from Umar Khalid, the former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader who has been incarcerated in the Delhi riots conspiracy case since September 2020. The case is now scheduled for hearing on 21 March.

Appearing for the Delhi Police, special prosecutor Amit Prasad requested an adjournment on the grounds that the investigating officer had changed and a new person had been appointed recently. Justice Sameet Bajpai of the Karkardooma court granted an adjournment despite opposition from Khalid’s lawyers.

In February 2024, Khalid had withdrawn his bail petition from the Supreme Court in the Delhi riots conspiracy case pending against him since May 2023, citing a “change in circumstances”.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 had appeared for Khalid in the apex court, stated before the bench of justices Bela Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal: “We wish to withdraw the bail matter. We will try our luck in the trial court.”

Accordingly, the judges dismissed the petition as withdrawn.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.

He was arrested on 13 September 2020 under the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for his alleged involvement in the riots in north-east Delhi in February 2020. He is accused of being one of the “key conspirators” in the riots. Khalid had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court's decision to deny him bail in 2022.

Khalid's lawyers 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 on that day because there were several other matters ahead of Khalid’s case.

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 Supreme Court bench was also set to consider a set of writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the UAPA alongside Khalid's bail petition.

Timeline of the Umar Khalid case in the Supreme Court

  • The hearing date in the case was first issued on 18 May 2023 and when it came up on 12 July, the 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 the hearing 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 to be heard 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 again not heard, with 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 UAPA. As Sibal was unavailable on said date due to another hearing before a Constitution bench, the case was adjourned to 22 November.

  • On 22 November, it again 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. This was refused. As A.S.V. Raju and Sibal were both unavailable, the case was now pushed to January 2024.

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

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

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