On January 10, the Supreme Court stated that it was adjourning Umar Khalid’s bail matter for a “final” time to January 24. Today, it adjourned the matter again. It has now been posted for a “high on board” hearing on January 31.
TODAY, a Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal adjourned the bail matter of Umar Khalid to January 31, 2024 as the Bench would sit in a different combination post lunch when the matter was imminent to come up.
This development comes after the Bench hadpromised at the previous hearing, on January 10, that the adjournment granted that day was going to be the “final” one.
During that hearing, both parties had sought an adjournment to January 24. The court, unwilling to adjourn the matter any further, wanted it to be listed on January 17.
However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal had told the court that he was going to be engaged in a Constitution Bench matter on January 17 (the Aligarh Muslim University minority institution matter) and the court should postpone the hearing by another week.
He had said: “He [Khalid] is in jail. What difference would it make [if the hearing is postponed to another week]? I am [engaged] in a Constitution Bench hearing.”
To this, Justice Mithal had emphasised that an impression should not be created that the court is unwilling to hear the matter when the adjournment is actually sought by counsels.
Khalid, an activist and former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, is accused of being one of the “masterminds” of the conspiracy to instigate violence and terrorism-related activities during theseriots.
According to the chargesheet filed by the Delhi police, Khalid delivered aninflammatory speech in Amravati, Maharashtra, a week before riots broke out in Delhi.
Two first information reports (FIRs) were filed against Khalid.
In one of the FIRs (FIR no. 59/2020), charges under Sections147 (punishment for rioting) and148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons),149 (every member of unlawful assembly is guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of common object) and302 ( punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with charges under Sections13 (punishment for unlawful activities),16 (punishment for terrorist act) and18 (punishment for conspiracy) of the UAPA have been framed against him and 17 others.
Charges under theArms Act, 1959 for the use of arms during riots have also been framed against him.
Additional charges under Sections124A(sedition) and153A (promotion of enmity between groups on the ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, etc.) of the IPC were subsequently added by the Delhi police in 2021.
In another FIR (FIR no. 101), Khalid, along with others, has been accused of vandalism and arson in northeastern Delhi’s Khajuri Khas. This FIR was registered on the grounds that he was part of a large crowd at Khajuri Khas that was pelting stones at the people nearby including the police and setting nearby vehicles on fire.
While he was granted bail in the second FIR, he continues to bedenied bail in the first FIR.
Timeline of Khalid’s bail application
On October 18, 2022, a Delhi High Court division Bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagarfound the allegations against Khalidprima facie true.
As per Section 43D(5) of the UAPA, bail cannot be granted if prima facie evidence suggests the commission of an offence under the statute.
Before the court finally heard his application, it put off the hearing on thegrounds that the Supreme Court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of thesedition law.
Khalid was granted interim bail on December 12, 2022 for a week to attend his sister’s marriage. The bail conditions included that he would not be in touch with any of the witnesses in the case and he would daily video call the investigating officer among others.
While granting them bail, the courtremarked that in its “anxiety to suppress dissent, the State has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed ‘right to protest’ and ‘terrorist activity’”.
No substantive hearing before the Supreme Court
Khalid filed a special leave petition against the Delhi High Court’s Order before the Supreme Court on April 6, 2023.
OnMay 18, 2023, the division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli issuednotice to the Delhi police represented by Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, returnable in six weeks.
OnJuly 12, 2023, when the matter came for hearing before a Bench comprising Justices Bopanna and M.M. Sundresh, Delhi police sought more time to file counter-affidavits.
Sibal objected to the counter-affidavits. He said: “In a bail matter, what counter is to be filed? The man [has been] inside for two years and 10 months.”
The court agreed to adjourn the matter to July 24, stating: “Bail application may take one–two minutes.”
When the matter came up before Justices Bopanna and Bela M. Trivedi onJuly 24, 2023, Sibal circulated a letter of adjournment and the matter was adjourned by one week.
The matter was then listed onAugust 9, 2023 before Justices Bopanna and Prashant Kumar Mishra. However, Justice Mishra recused without any reason.
OnAugust 18, 2023, the matter came up before another Bench. It was adjourned as it had been listed on a miscellaneous day.
The matter came up again onSeptember 5, 2023, before Justices Trivedi and Dipankar Datta. The court postponed it to next week because Khalid’s advocate Kapil Sibal was unavailable.
The court gave the last opportunity to hear the matter onSeptember 12, 2023. When the matter came up before a Bench comprising Justices Bose and Trivedi, they said that they would examine the bail application on documentary evidence.
The matter was listed for hearing on October 11, 2023. It came up the next day before the Bench of Justices Trivedi and Datta. The court stated that due to paucity of time, it would not be able to hear the matter.
To this, Sibal stated: “I can demonstrate in twenty minutes that there is no case at all.”
The matter was listed for November 1, 2023.
Meanwhile, onOctober 20, 2023, another petition (Umar Khalid versus Union of India & Anr.) filed by Khalid challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of the UAPA came up before Justices Bose and Trivedi. They tagged it with the bail petition.
This matter came up again onOctober 31, 2023. Khalid’s petition was tagged with other petitions relating to Tripura violence. The counsels for the other petitions sought to de-couple Khalid’s petition from the rest of the batch. However, the court said it was going to hear all the petitions together.
Khalid’s bail matter came up before a Bench of Justices Trivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma onNovember 29, 2023. On a joint request of Sibal and the Delhi police, the court listed the matter for further hearing on January 10, 2024.
Khalid has spent almost three years of prolonged incarceration without a substantive hearing.