Ex-JNU student Umar Khalid withdraws bail petition from Supreme Court

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Umar Khalid, referred to ‘changed circumstances’ and said he would seek relief in the trial court

February 14, 2024 12:40 pm | Updated 11:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Umar Khalid. File

Umar Khalid. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Former student leader Umar Khalid, an undertrial in a Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case linked to the February 2020 Delhi riots for three years, withdrew his bail application from the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Appearing before a Bench headed by Justice Bela M. Trivedi, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Mr. Khalid, sought and got permission to withdraw the bail plea. Mr. Sibal referred to “changed circumstances” and said he would seek relief in the trial court. The court permitted him to withdraw the plea.

Mr. Khalid has also withdrawn his separate writ petition questioning the legality of certain sections of the UAPA, especially dealing with bail. This petition had been tagged with others which had similarly challenged the draconian nature of the UAPA. The other writ petitioners, including Foundation for Media Professionals and individuals — the latter have accused Tripura Police of slapping FIRs under UAPA for their social media posts and fact-finding reports on communal violence in the State — have sought time to consider the option of withdrawing from the Supreme Court to move the respective High Courts. The various petitions were represented by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, advocates Prashant Bhushan, Cheryl D’Souza and Jaimon Andrews. 

Also read: Umar Khalid’s bail plea: A timeline of court hearings and adjournments 

Series of re-scheduling

The hearing in the case had been through a persistent series of re-scheduling over the past many months. His case has also travelled across different Benches of the Supreme Court in 2023.

A Bench led by Justice A.S. Bopanna had first issued notice on May 18 last year. The next date of hearing, July 12, saw the government seek an adjournment. On July 24, the petitioner’s side had sought time.

A month later, on August 9, a Bench of Justices Bopanna and P.K. Mishra said the case “cannot be taken up in this combination [of judges]” and adjourned it.

Mr. Khalid’s case came up before a different Bench led by Justice Bela M. Trivedi on September 5. The hearing was adjourned on the request of the parties. The Bench said it would give a “last opportunity” on September 12.

On October 12, the case was not taken up due to “paucity of time”.

Similarly, the case was adjourned in November due to “non-availability of the senior lawyers concerned” and now twice in January this year.

Justice Trivedi had earlier pointed out that the hearing of and decision in the case should not be delayed any further. It was a matter concerning liberty.

Additional solicitor general of India S.V. Raju had countered that the accused was very the reason why the framing of charges was delayed all these years. The accusations were serious.

‘Larger conspiracy’

Mr. Khalid is accused of being part of a “larger conspiracy” behind the communal violence.

The Delhi High Court had refused to grant bail to Mr. Khalid, saying he was in constant touch with other co-accused and allegations against him were prima facie true.

The High Court had said the acts of the accused prima facie qualified as “terrorist act” under the UAPA. The High Court had said the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests “metamorphosed into violent riots”, which “prima facie seemed to be orchestrated at the conspiratorial meetings”, and the statements of the witnesses indicate Mr. Khalid’s “active involvement” in the protests.

Mr. Khalid has also filed a separate writ petition questioning the legality of certain sections of the UAPA, especially dealing with bail. This petition had been tagged with others who had similarly challenged the draconian nature of the UAPA. Mr. Khalid’s plea for bail was to be jointly heard with these writ petitions.

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