Umar Khalid case: Hearing of bail plea adjourned yet again

After several postponed hearings, this time the adjournment was due to senior lawyers from both sides being absent

Umar Khalid (Photo: National Herald archives)
Umar Khalid (Photo: National Herald archives)

Ashlin Mathew

The bail plea of former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid, incarcerated in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, has been adjourned yet again by the Supreme Court after both sides stated that senior counsels were not available.

The hearing has been postponed to 10 January.

A bench of justices Bela M. Trivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma adjourned the hearing, based on a joint request by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is representing Khalid, and additional solicitor general S.V. Raju, saying they were both unavailable.

Initially, the bench had postponed the matter to 6 December, but the court was informed that Sibal would be unavailable on that date too, as he has to appear before the Constitution bench that day. Consequently, the bench has now posted the matter for 10 January.

Khalid was arrested on 13 September 2020 under the UAPA for his alleged involvement in the riots in north-east Delhi in February 2020, and has been 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.

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

The bench will also consider a set of writ petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Unlawful Act (Prevention) Act, 1967, along with Khalid's bail petition.

During the hearing, senior lawyer Arvind Datar requested that the petitions challenging the provisions of UAPA be moved to a three-judge bench, pointing out that a plea to reconsider the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act is also before a three-judge bench at this time.

He explained that Section 45 of the PMLA, which deals with bail, is identical to Section 43D(5) of the UAPA. Datar was appearing for the Foundation of Media Professionals.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was in court over a petition challenging the UAPA FIR registered by the Tripura police over a report on riots, also raised a similar request. He requested Justice Trivedi to place the matter before the Chief Justice of India too.

However, Justice Trivedi refused to refer the matter to another bench. “These matters have been listed before this bench. We will hear them,” asserted Justice Trivedi.

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 after 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 himself from the case when it was first set to be heard in September.

The notice for hearing of the case was issued on 18 May. When it finally 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 Mishra recused himself from the case, which was subsequently adjourned again on 18 August, 5 September and 12 September.

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