Veracity of witness statement can’t be tested at bail stage: HC on Khalid plea

The former Jawaharlal Nehru University student was arrested on September 13, 2020 in connection with the north-east Delhi riots

Updated - May 26, 2022 11:28 am IST

Published - May 26, 2022 01:26 am IST

Umar Khalid

Umar Khalid | Photo Credit: File Photo

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday told former JNU student Umar Khalid, arrested in connection with the 2020 north-east Delhi riots larger conspiracy case, that the veracity of witnesses’ statements was not required to be tested at the stage of considering the bail plea.

A Bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar said it cannot hold a mini-trial at the stage of considering the bail plea.

“In so far as UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) is concerned, we have to look at the material on record without testing the veracity of that material. That material can only be contradicted and rebutted at the time of trial,” the Bench said.

‘Hearsay statement’

Mr. Khalid has challenged a trial court’s order on March 24, refusing him bail in the UAPA case. His counsel had earlier argued that Mr. Khalid has been in jail for the last two years based on a protected witness’ hearsay statement, which has no corroboration.

The Delhi police have relied on the protected witness’ statement that the conspiracy for the riots was hatched at the office of Popular Front of India (PFI) in Shaheen Bagh on January 8, 2020, where Mr. Khalid, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain and activist Khalid Saifi had met.

Contesting the police’s claim, Mr. Khalid’s counsel said the statement of the witness cannot be relied upon as there was contradiction in what was told to the police and to the magistrate.

Mr. Khalid is seeking bail on the ground that he was not present when the violence broke out in north-east Delhi and that no money was recovered from him. He has argued that the case against him is based on “cooked-up statements”. The High Court will continue hearing argument on his bail plea on May 30.

Mr. Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and several others have been booked under UAPA in the case for allegedly being the “masterminds” of the February 2020 riots, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured. The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens.

Mr. Khalid’s counsel had contended that the protests against the CAA were against an “unjust law” and it was in no way an act against the Sovereign. Several of the acts alleged or incidents cited against Mr. Khalid by the police were not even qualifying as “terror” and the protesters were not perpetuating violence as contemplated under the UAPA, the counsel said.

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