The Delhi High Court questioned JNU student leader Umar Khalid about his purported statement given in Amravati on Wednesday, while hearing his application for bail in the conspiracy case connected to the violence that erupted in the national capital in February 2020.
“There has to be a line for criticism as well…there has to be a Lakshman Rekha,” a two-judge bench of the High Court presided over by Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar said while hearing the appeal.
The bench’s comments came after the court heard Khalid’s Amravati speech, in which Senior Advocate Trideep Pais argued that Khalid had been detained for more than 500 days and that criticising the government was not “criminal”.
The bench also posed a question to Khalid’s counsel whether it was appropriate to use the word “Jumla” for the Prime Minister. “This word jumla is used against the Prime Minister of India. Is it proper?” the bench said.
During the hearing, the senior counsel contended that the purpose of FIR 59 was to put persons arrested during the CAA in jail. “The so-called most key FIR of the rioting conspiracy contains no cognizable offences,” Pais added.
“There is a conspiracy…the involvement imputed to the Co-conspirators also applies to you….the question here is what was the conspiracy,” the bench remarked in response to the submission.
The judges observed, in reference to Umar’s statements, “Khalid is a clever man, but does this amount to a conspiracy. It’s referred to as “hiding in plain sight.” It doesn’t have to be for a certain audience. It could even be for someone else.”
The court was considering an appeal filed by Khalid, who was contesting a trial court judgement denying him bail in connection with the case involving the bigger conspiracy that led to Riots 2020.
On the most recent occasion, the judge, while analysing Khalid’s speeches and issuing notice over the bail plea, inquired, “Did Mahatma Gandhi and Shaheed Bhagat Singh ever use this language? We have no objections to free speech, but what exactly are you saying? All of this is unpleasant and offensive.”
“Don’t you think these expressions used are offensive to people? It’s almost as if we get an impression that only one community fought for India’s independence,” the court said.
On March 24, 2022, the Trial Court refused Umar Khalid’s bail application, stating that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges against him are prima facie true.