The Delhi High Court today observed that student activist Umar Khalid's speech in Amravati in February 2020 was "offensive" and "obnoxious".
The court made these oral observations while issuing notice on Khalid's appeal challenging a trial court's order refusing him bail in a Delhi riots conspiracy case.
According to Bar and Bench, the bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar asked Khalid's lawyer, Trideep Pais, what his client was accused of.
When Pais explained the Amravati speech, the bench cut in: "These expressions being used, don't you think they incite people? You don't think 'jab aapke purvaj angrezo ki dalali kar rahe the' [when your ancestors were slaves of the British] is offensive? It gives the impression that only one community was fighting against the British. Did Gandhiji ever employ such language? Did Bhagat Singh ever employ this? Is this what Gandhiji told us?"
The court said it was "not surprised" the FIR was "premised on this part of the speech". "Prima facie this is not acceptable," the bench said. "This is not acceptable in four corners of democracy and free speech."
Pais replied, "If this is obnoxious speech, so be it. That is not why I am here. I am here on allegations of terror."
Charges against Umar Khalid
Khalid has been booked under the UAPA for his alleged involvement in a “conspiracy” related to the 2020 Delhi riots.
On February 17, 2020, Khalid had made a speech in Amravati, which is now treated as evidence of a conspiracy. While arguing on behalf of Khalid last year, his lawyer Trideep Pais had said the Delhi police’s entire case was based on edited footage from Republic and News18.
Republic then replied saying the footage had not been recorded by its own cameraperson; it was actually material tweeted by the BJP’s Amit Malviya. News18, which Pais accused of omitting a crucial statement, said they did not have the raw footage either.
In July 2021, Khalid filed a bail plea at a Delhi court after spending 10 months in jail. After eight months, dozens of hearings, delays in court dates, and three order deferments, Khalid’s bail order was pronounced last month in just one word – “dismissed”.