NEW DELHI – The Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected the bail plea of social activist Umar Khalid saying it found “no merit” in the appeal.
Khalid, who has been booked under several provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Arms Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act in Delhi Police’s ‘larger conspiracy case’ of the 2020 Northeast Delhi riots, had moved the high court after he was denied bail by trial court on March 24.
The court also said the acts of the accused prima facie qualified as terrorist acts under the anti-terror law UAPA.
A bench headed by Justice Siddharth Mridul said the anti-CAA protests metamorphosed into violent riots, which “prima facie seemed to be orchestrated at the conspiratorial meetings, and the statements of the witnesses indicate Khalid’s active involvement in the protests.
The appellant (Khalid) was in constant touch with other co-accused persons, including Sharjeel Imam, who arguably is at the head of the conspiracy; at this stage (of bail), it is difficult to form an opinion that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the petitioner is prima facie not proved, observed the bench, also comprising Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar.
“On in-depth and considered perusal of the charge sheet, and the accompanying documents this court expresses the inescapable conclusion that allegations against the appellant are ‘prima facie true’ and hence, the embargo (on bail) created by Section 43D(5) of UAPA applies squarely. Thus, the appellant’s application seeking regular bail is rejected,” the court ruled.
Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and several others have been booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the “masterminds” of the February 2020 riots, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
In its 52-page order, the court observed that the planned protests were not the kind that is normal in political culture or democracy (but were) far more destructive and injurious and geared towards extremely grave consequences and the acts of the accused prima facie qualified as a terrorist act under UAPA.
Taking the charge sheet and other material at face value, the court noted there was intentional blocking off roads to cause disruption in north-east Delhi, and the weapons used, the manner of attack and the resultant deaths and destruction indicate it was pre-planned.
It asserted that acts which threaten the country’s unity, cause communal friction and create terror in any section of the people by disturbing the social-fabric is a terrorist act and the issue of granting bail in the present case has to be considered in the “larger context of the societal concerns involved in releasing an accused in juxtaposition with individual liberty.
The court said the statements of the protected witnesses indicate the presence and active involvement of the appellant in the protests against the CAA and NRC.
“Admittedly these protests metamorphosed into violent riots in February 2020, which began by firstly choking public roads, then violently and designedly attacking policemen and random members of the public, whereat firearms, acid bottles, stones etc. were used, resulting in the admitted and sad loss of 53 precious lives and the destruction of property worth several crores,” it said.