Umar Khalid’s Bail Appeal at the Delhi High Court
A Delhi Court denied Khalid bail, stating the facts indicated his conspiring to riot. Khalid and Sharjeel Imam have approached the Delhi HC.
“We have no regrets of being jailed in this particular case. We are in fact proud of the fact that we have been booked under sedition,” proclaimed activist Umar Khalid on receiving Bail from the Delhi High Court. This was in March 2016—Khalid had just spent a month in jail booked under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises and punishes sedition. He was arrested for chanting ‘anti-national’ slogans during a protest in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
This was the first of many FIRs charged against the former student of JNU. In November 2020, the Delhi High Court took cognisance of a charge sheet (FIR 59/2020) filed by the Delhi Police accusing Umar Khalid and fellow activist Sharjeel Imam of conspiring and instigating the 2020 Delhi Riots, which took place during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. Later, in October 2020, the Delhi Police filed another FIR (FIR 101/2020) pertaining to vandalism and arson in Northeast Delhi’s Khajuri Khas. The police claimed that there was proof of Khalid’s involvement with other accused persons in the case.
In April 2021, Khalid received bail from a Sessions Court in Delhi against the charges filed under FIR 101. However, he continued to remain in judicial custody over the allegations against him in FIR 59.
In FIR 59, Khalid was charged under the Indian Penal Code, 1980 (IPC) for various offences including rioting (sections 147 and 148), murder (s 302) and unlawful assembly (s 149). He was also charged under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for unlawful activities (s 13), terrorist activities (s 16 to 18), and conspiracy (s 18). Further, he is charged under the Arms Act, 1959 for the use of arms (s 25 and 27). In March 2021, a Sessions Court in Delhi took cognisance of the additional charges filed against him by the Delhi police under the IPC: those of sedition (s 124A) and promotion of enmity between groups(s 153A).
In July 2021, Khalid filed for bail before the Sessions Court. When the petition was heard in August 2021, Khalid—represented by Advocate Trideep Pais—argued that a prima facie case did not exist. The charge sheet included contradictory witness statements and inconsistent claims, indicating that the allegations made by the Delhi Police both under the IPC and UAPA were baseless. Further, the counsel presented that a communal angle was being forced on the CAA protests and activities—which were secular and democratic in nature.
The prosecution—led by Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad—argued that messages from the ‘Delhi Protest Support Group’ (DPSG) WhatsApp group indicated that Khalid intended to undermine the authority of the government and ‘bring it to its knees’. Further, they disputed the secular nature of the protests, arguing that the CAA protests were organised to facilitate violent outbursts. Relying heavily on the conversations and comments made on the WhatsApp group, the prosecution concluded that Khalid was in fact part of a larger conspiracy surrounding the Delhi Riots.
After eight months of hearings, on March 24th 2022, a Delhi Sessions Court denied bail to Umar Khalid. The Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat stated that a preliminary assessment of the case indicates a premeditated conspiracy surrounding the 2020 Delhi Riots that Khalid was involved in. On April 22nd 2022, Khalid appealed the Session Court’s Order before the Delhi High Court.
On April 29th 2022, Sharjeel Imam also appealed against the Delhi Session Court’s denial of his bail application two weeks earlier. On the 29th, the Delhi HC decided to hear both Khalid and Imam’s appeals together. In this hearing, Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar took note that the challenge to the constitutionality of sedition had resurfaced in the Supreme Court. They stated that they would hear the appeals after the SC’s decision in the case—‘no matter the bearing’ of the decision to the present appeals before the Delhi HC. On May 10th, the Court will decide whether to refer the sedition challenge to a 7-Judge Bench.
The SC will hear the appeals again on May 11th. Meanwhile, the Delhi HC will hear Khalid’s appeal on May 19th and 20th. Imam’s appeal will be heard on May 26th. READ MORE
A Special Bench at the Delhi High Court debated over Khalid’s ‘seditious’ language at a speech delivered in Amravati, Maharashtra—only six days before the riots. It ordered that the matter be heard regularly from May 23rd—so that hearings close before the Delhi High Court breaks for summer vacation on June 4th. READ MORE
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, appearing for Umar Khalid before the Delhi High Court, pointed to the ‘misrepresentation’ of facts in the Delhi Police’s charge sheet. The counsel argued that these instances, along with the Sessions Court’s denial of bail, point to a consistent mischaracterisation of Khalid as a ‘terrorist’. READ MORE
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, appearing for Umar Khalid before the Delhi High Court, continued describing ‘misrepresented’ facts. The counsel further argued that the Sessions Court Judge used questionable rationale while denying Mr. Khalid bail in March 2022. READ MORE
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais locked horns with the Bench on whether it should examine the veracity of evidence gathered by an investigative agency when considering a bail application. Mr. Pais reiterated that the Delhi Police’s charge sheet against Mr. Khalid contained multiple inconsistencies. The matter will next be heard on May 30th, 2022. READ MORE
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais and Advocate Sanya Kumar argued that witness statements mentioned in the Delhi Police charge sheet contradicted other claims made against Mr. Khalid in the same document. Further, some witness statements had identical portions. The matter will next be heard on July 4th, 2022, once the Delhi High Court reopens after its summer vacation. READ MORE