Questioning the veracity of statements given by one of the lead witnesses in the northeast Delhi riots case, activist Umar Khalid’s lawyer accused witnesses of half-truths.
During the bail hearing for activist Umar Khalid today, his lawyer Trideep Pais argued that a witness whose word was being “heavily relied on” to implicate Khalid had not been able to point out any specific activity which he undertook, by virtue of which it can be said a “terrorist or illegal attack” had been designed by Khalid leading to the violence in Northeast Delhi in February 2020.
The matter was being heard by Judge Amitabh Rawat in a Delhi Court. Khalid was arrested in September 2020 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged role in the violence during Delhi riots and has been incarcerated since then.
Pais read out a statement from a witness named Bravo, saying that “this witness is an indication of a pattern of false indication in the FIR and chargesheet.”
Pais spoke about Khalid’s involvement in the Delhi Protest Support Group, which started in December 2019, as the WhatsApp chats were being relied on as part of the witness statement. He said that the meeting on December 28 had “certain actionable points” but there was no role or responsibility to him.
Khalid said that he had attended only two meetings and had sent only four messages on the DPSG group between December 2019 and March 2020. Showing the messages to the court, he said, through his lawyer, that the quality of the messages will show that there is absolutely no merit in the allegations against him.
Along with several others, Khalid has been accused of being the “mastermind” of the Northeast Delhi riots, which left 53 dead and injured hundreds. The violence took place after countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. While the former JNU student union leader received bail in April 2021 in connection with the riots that broke out in the Khajuri Khas area of Northeast Delhi, he continues to be behind bars regarding the “conspiracy” behind the riots, for which he was booked under the stringent UAPA.
Two of the messages he sent are locations of protest sites and one is Khalid passing on a message from a senior police officer of Delhi to the group, who had called him and requested to cancel the protest. This was on a day when he was not in town. The fourth message was Khalid saying he spoke to someone from the Jamia Coordination Committee who conveyed that the protest doesn’t seem to be called off.
“Bravo”, a protected witness, was part of the JCC group and had left due to disagreements in February. However, Khalid’s counsel said that Bravo’s statement to the police came only in June. After reading his statement, Pais accused the witness of “cooking up” things like the existence of a high level committee.
The witness was accused of “cherry-picking names” to give to the police. He argued that various persons involved in the anti-CAA protests including Apoorv Anand and Kavita Krishnan were not accused of wrongdoing, whereas activists like Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Umar were. According to Umar’s plea, as read out by Pais in the court, “According to his [Bravo] statements, people were assigned sites and they are not accused.”
Pais said that there was no qualitative difference between the rest and Khalid but while he had not assigned any protest sites, he was still behind bars.
“Chor ki dhadi me tinka clearly visible here,” said Pais. Wherever “Bravo” named Khalid in the statement, he was referred along with others and never in isolation, according to him.
Khalid’s lawyer also referred to another allegation in the chargesheet which speaks about a “secret meeting” in Seelampur and alleged that Khalid wanted rioting and for blood to be spilled on the streets.
“No search or seizure, nothing whatsoever has been recovered,” he argued, showing a picture of Khalid and others at the “secret meeting,” saying that the picture was downloaded from Facebook, where it wouldn't have been uploaded if it was indeed a secret meeting.
“This is the beauty of FIR 59. You can pick and choose, and do whatever you want,” he said. One among the 750 FIRs filed in the case, FIR 59 formed the roots of what is now referred to as the Delhi riots conspiracy case.
Pais added that none of the witnesses or participants had called it a secret meeting. He then went on to the next witness, who he said was a chaiwalla. Pais asked how the person who is a “silent whisperer'' and “mastermind” (as Khalid was previously referred to in the chargesheet) would speak all this in front of a tea seller.
“Witness is clearly a cooked up witness. You can’t have half the truth to make a case against me,” he said. “Most vicious language is used because once you cook up a statement, you can say anything.”
Pais then spoke about the next witness, who had not called the meeting secret in any way, but had referred to Khalid being present at the meeting. “The secret meeting theory is demolished by the witness,” he said. This witness’s statement was recorded just three days before Khalid’s arrest to “suit the arrest,” according to Pais.
The hearing has been adjourned to Tuesday, November 16. Arguments from Khalid’s side are likely to be wrapped up on the day.
During the hearing last month, Khalid’s lawyer had argued that there was no consistency among the chargesheet allegations. Earlier, the lawyer had referred to the chargesheet as a “9 pm script of shouting news channels'' and said that the statements in the chargesheet were a “figment of [the] imagination” of the officer who drafted it and when handed to the media, were “shaped” as truth to form public opinion against Khalid.
In another bail hearing for Khalid, the lawyer had claimed that the “Delhi police had nothing but Republic TV and CNN-News18” for the case against Khalid.