The hearing in Dr. Umar Khalid’s bail application in the Delhi riots conspiracy case continued as the Prosecution started making its submissions today before Additional Sessions Judge, Amitabh Rawat of Karkardooma Shahdara Court, Delhi. The Prosecution argued that the applicant’s arguments were based on speculation and conjecture while the court is required to take a holistic view at this point.
Khalid, activist and former student of JNU has been in prison since September 2020. He has been accused of sections 13 (Punishment for unlawful activities), 16 (Punishment for terrorist act), 17 (Punishment for raising funds for terrorist act) and 18 (Punishment for conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
In December 2021, Senior Counsel Trideep Pais appearing for Khalid had concluded his arguments stating that the statements of the witnesses are fabricated and will not stand the test of law. The prosecution represented by Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad started its arguments today picking up from the final submissions made on behalf of Khalid and said that the applicant has made references to web series ‘Family Man’ and the movie ‘The Trail of Chicago 7’ because he has nothing to submit on merit and merely wants to divert the court’s attention.
He submitted that at this stage, when the court is considering bail application, it cannot explore whether material on record is reliable; neither can it explore the credibility of the witnesses. “If a person remembers and makes a statement before Court and if on the spur of the moment, he makes some deviation, it cannot be questioned. It cannot be said that the witness is not credible,” he said. He pointed out that Pais had argued that the investigating agency is communal but the first conviction that has happened in the Delhi riots case is of a Hindu man, “So you cannot say that the investigating agency is communal. The agency (Police) is of the state and not of any individual”.
The SPP further stated that Khalid is in the midst of all events that led to the riots right from December 2019 when the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 was taken up in Parliament. Prasad then went through a series of dates starting from December 4 to formation of various Whatsapp groups, to the beginning of Shaheen Bagh protests and the idea of creation of other protest sites like Shaheen Bagh on the concept of ‘chakka jam’. He then stated that at a meeting in Seelampur Khalid met Devangana and Natasha Narwal, founders of Pinjra Tod where he told them that the protests must be escalated to riots.
SPP Prasad said that conspiracy according to him was a “secret agreement for a number of people for pursuance of policies which they dare not admit in public.” He said that in this case, there is a secrecy and a clear attempt to cover up after the crime came to light. He submitted that after the FIR was registered on March 6, 2020 there were messages on the Whatsapp group to shift to Signal messaging app. “You formed a group for a purpose, and you are disbanding for a purpose. The court has to look into this. We need to understand why a particular thing is being done,” he said.
Riots were not spontaneous
SPP Prasad further contended that the riots were not spontaneous which has been appreciated by the Delhi High Court (BA 2704/2021). In this case, the court dismissed the bail application of an accused in the riots case and observed,
“41. The riots which shook the National Capital of the country in February 2020 evidently did not take place in a spur of the moment, and the conduct of the protestors who are present in the video footage which has been placed on record by the prosecution visibly portrays that it was a calculated attempt to dislocate the functioning of the Government as well as to disrupt the normal life of the people in the city…”
He further contended that the protest sites that were created at several places were also not organic in nature as they were being given logistical support and were meticulously planned, and were in close proximity to a mosque. “Use of identical placards and banners at diff protest sites demonstrate they were not organic and were created in a coordinated manner,” he submitted.
SPP Prasad then read out section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) which defines ‘terrorist act’. On the relevant part was read as follows:
(1)] Whoever does any act with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security 5[, economic security,] or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country,—
(a) by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisonous or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological radioactive, nuclear or otherwise) of a hazardous nature or by any other means of whatever nature to cause or likely to cause—
(i) death of, or injuries to, any person or persons; or
(ii) loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property; or
(iii) disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community in India or in any foreign country;…
He stated that during the riots 53 people were killed, over a 100 police personnel injured, and property worth at least Rs. 21.9 crore was destroyed and there are more claims to destruction of property which will be accounted for in the supplementary chargesheet. Lethal and sharp edged weapons, lathis, stones etc were used for attacking people and police personnel as well as public employees.
Object of the ‘rioters’
Commenting on the objective of the rioters, Prasad said, “The ultimate objectives of the rioters were to overawe the gov’t and undermine the authority of the gov’t which enacted CAA, and to destabilise the democracy. The idea was to bring the gov’t of India to its knees and withdraw CAA.” He said that there are WhatsApp messages which read, “Sarkar ko ghutne par lana hai.” (We have to bring the government to its knees)
Referring to the arguments made by Pais in the previous hearings, he said that PAis has submitted that the meetings referred to of Seelampur and at PFI office are not secretive in nature since photographs clicked at these meetings were posted on social media. Prasad said, “When a photo is posted, it does not mean it was not a secret meeting. We have a witness who deposes what happened in the meeting.”
He further pointed out that Pais had argued that the investigating agency was putting ‘tadka’. “There are chats which have been recovered, videos recovered, statements given. I’ll demonstrate that where does this flow from, each of the facts that have been placed on record, demonstrates that the conclusion of IO is not the figment of his imagination. It’s not that the IO is saying anything out of thin air. It’s the material on record. I’ll place all the allegations with the material on record,” he said.
He also retorted to the argument made by Pais that Khalid had barely sent 4-5 messages on the Whatsapp groups which he was part of, saying that If he is there to give support to group, then he was definitely a part of it and it would not matter whether he has sent messages on the group or not. “If someone joins a group, and doesn’t say anything, is he somebody whom one would want to remove when the threat of detection of crime happens,” he said.
SPP prasad concluded the arguments for the day stating that he will rely upon the NIA vs. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali judgment in the next hearing.
When the court asked if he will conclude his arguments in the next hearing, SPP Prasad said he will need at least 2-3 hearings more to conclude. The court has assigned the next two dates of hearing as January 24 and January 31.
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