Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid, accused in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, on Tuesday, told a court in New Delhi that the investigating officer wrote fanciful stories in the chargesheet and contended whether organising chakka jaam (road blockade) constitutes an offence to invite invocation of the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Khalid, along with several others, has been booked under the stringent UAPA and is accused of being the “mastermind” of the February 2020 northeast Delhi riots, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
Arguing his bail plea in the riots conspiracy case before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, his lawyer referred to the supplementary chargesheet filed in the case and said the police wished to paint every accused with the same brush while adding ”tadka” (flavour) to it.
The Delhi Police had earlier said Umar Khalid’s bail plea has no merit and that it will demonstrate the prima facie case against him before the court by referring to the chargesheet filed in the case.
However, during the hearing on Tuesday, senior advocate Trideep Pais, appearing for Umar Khalid, told the court, “I’ll show your honour how UAPA is not made out or allegations are improbable.”
He referred to three allegations made against the accused in the chargesheet, emphasizing that they were the fertile imagination of the police and had no consistency.
He submitted that the first allegation levelled by the police in the chargesheet was that JNU student Sharjeel Imam created a WhatsApp group of Muslim students on the directions of Umar Khalid on December 4, 2019.
Denying it, he said, “Constituting a WhatsApp group of Muslim students, is it terror? There is no witness to say that it was formed on the instance of Umar (Khalid). It is so easy to rope me in the chargesheet which is just a conjecture.”
The lawyer further said there was not even a single shred of communication between Imam and Umar Khalid and no message was shared by the latter in the WhatsApp group.
“Just being in a group is not a crime,” the counsel emphasized in a one-hour-long hearing.
“Your [prosecution] wish to paint every accused with one brush as if it was one conspiracy crumbles when you look at the chargesheet. Where do you get it from? You got it from your mind. Half of it is a fertile imagination. None of this is supported by any statement,” Pais said.
Furthermore, he denied the second allegation levelled by the police regarding a speech given by Umar Khalid at a protest organized by United Against Hate (UAH) at Jantar Mantar on December 7, 2019, where, as per the prosecution, he also introduced Swaraj India President Yogender Yadav to Imam.
“Police said that Imam was introduced to Yogender Yadav by Umar Khalid, his senior and mentor. Senior, mentor – this ”tadka” (flavour) has been put by them. It is such a dangerous thing,” the counsel said, referring to the chargesheet.
He also said the speech purportedly given by Umar Khalid was produced by the police and there is no evidence that it incited anybody.
“The officer wants to tell the story but he forgets that he is not a storyteller, he is dealing with the law. Every assertion in the chargesheet must have a basis but this does not have any basis. They want to paint me with a single brush but do not have material for that,” the lawyer added.
He further said the third allegation against him was that he was allegedly part of a “secret meeting” held on December 8, 2019, where organizing a chakka jaam (road blockade) was discussed.
“Is chakka jaam an offence, does it invite UAPA? Is a meeting to say that our protest will involve chakka jaam automatically a criminal conspiracy? Where does it say it’s a crime? This meeting has found itself on every news item, branded about like some great conspiracy,” he said.
The lawyer read out the statement of three prosecution witnesses and claimed that none of them described it as a secret meeting.
The trio did not sign it, and it was recorded after a delay, Pais claimed.
He said, “None of the witnesses spoke about a conspiracy, meeting of minds, or an illegal act. It is not my personal opinion or that of the officer who is writing these fanciful stories using words like mentor, teachers, or whatever.”
“If I am the mastermind, then why are these witnesses not saying what suits you? Mere presence in a meeting or being a part of a WhatsApp group is not a crime. Attending a meeting is not a crime by any stretch of the imagination,” Pais said.
The court will now hear the bail plea on November 2.
In a hearing on September 3, Umar Khalid’s lawyer had told the court that the chargesheet made hyperbolic allegations “without any factual basis” and reads like a script from a web series and news channels.
On August 23, Pais had said that Umar Khalid was framed by the media, which allegedly played an edited video of his speech initially tweeted by BJP leader Amit Malviya.
Besides him, JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain and several others have also been booked under the stringent anti-terror law in the case.