The Delhi High Court on Monday observed that the speech delivered by former JNU student Umar Khalid, arrested in connection with the 2020 north-east Delhi riots here, in Amravati in February 2020 was in “bad taste” but that did not make it a terrorist act.
“That the speech is in bad taste, does not make it a terrorist act. We understand that extremely well. If the case of the prosecution is premised on how offensive the speech was, that by itself would not constitute an offence,” a Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar said.
The Bench’s observation came while hearing an appeal filed by Mr. Khalid challenging an order by a trial court refusing him bail in a case involving Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) charges alleging a larger conspiracy in the 2020 riots. The Bench added that the speech was “offensive” and “distasteful” and “may tantamount to defamation but it will not tantamount to a terrorist activity”. It listed the matter for further hearing on July 4.
Mr. Khalid, arrested on September 13, 2020, is facing charges under the anti-terror law UAPA for allegedly being one of the ‘masterminds’, and one of the main conspirators as well as instigators behind the north-east Delhi riots.
He sought bail on the ground that he was not present when the violence broke out and that no money was recovered from him. Mr. Khalid also argued that the case is based on cooked-up statements. His counsel had earlier argued that he has been in jail for the last two years based on a protected witness’ hearsay statement which had not been corroborated so far.
He had said that the use of the word ‘revolution’ during his speech in Amravati in February 2020 could not be construed as a call to violence.
In its response to Mr. Khalid’s bail plea, the Delhi police had said the trial court had “rightly dismissed” his plea for release through a “well-reasoned order”.
On March 24, 2022, the trial court had denied bail to Mr. Khalid stating that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that the accusations against him were prima facie true.