5 sought by court, 4 by his lawyer: Why SC adjourned Umar Khalid’s bail plea 11 times

The matter has now been adjourned to January 31.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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In the nine months since activist Umar Khalid filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, his bail plea has been adjourned 11 times. Today was the latest episode in the series of adjournments.

Of these 11 adjournments, at least four were requested by Khalid’s counsel, including one joint request with the Delhi police. The top court postponed the hearings five times. Additionally, one hearing was deferred because of a logistical issue and another adjournment was sought by the Delhi police. 

The former JNU scholar has been incarcerated for over three years. He was arrested in September 2020 on charges under the UAPA and for criminal conspiracy in the Delhi riots case. After being denied bail by a Karkardooma court in March 2022 and the Delhi High Court in October 2022, he approached the Supreme Court on April 6, 2023.

A court in December 2022 discharged Khalid in matters involving stone pelting, but he has remained behind bars in the UAPA case.

On May 18 last year, when the matter came up in the Supreme Court for the first time, a bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli issued notice to the Delhi Police over the bail petition. But after that, the matter has been barely heard. 

But what reasons were given to adjourn Khalid’s petition 11 times? Here's a timeline. 

July 12, 2023: When the bail plea came up in the Supreme Court, the Delhi police sought more time to file its reply. 

Khalid’s lawyer then argued that the activist had been in jail for more than two years and questioned why a reply was needed in a bail case. In response, Delhi police’s counsel said the chargesheets against Khalid ran into thousands of pages. The court granted the police 12 days to file its response. 

At the time, the court had remarked, “This is a matter that may take only one or two minutes.” 

July 24, 2023: The matter was due to be heard that day by a bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Bela M Trivedi, but Khalid’s lawyer sought an adjournment. The court adjourned the hearing by one week.

August 9, 2023: The matter was listed before a bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Prashant Kumar Mishra. But as the hearing began, the latter recused himself from the hearing. The matter was adjourned to be taken up by another bench. 

August 17, 2023: The bail plea was mentioned in the cause list for the day. But it was placed once again before the bench of Justices Bopanna and Mishra, even though the latter had recused himself from the hearing. The matter was dropped from the cause list.

August 18, 2023: Khalid’s bail plea came up before a bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi. The judges said the matter would have to be heard on a non-miscellaneous day when lengthy hearings take place. 

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are non-miscellaneous days, when regular hearings are held at the top court. Mondays and Fridays are miscellaneous days, when fresh matters are taken up.  

September 5, 2023: Khalid’s bail plea came up for hearing but was adjourned due to the unavailability of his lawyer Kapil Sibal. Sibal had been arguing before another bench of the Supreme Court, which was hearing the pleas contesting the abrogation of Article 370. 

The bench of Justices Bela Trivedi and Dipankar Dutta remarked that Sibal was known to be busy and the court does not wait for any senior counsel. But they agreed to adjourn the hearing to the following week as the “last opportunity” to hear the plea.

September 12, 2023: As the matter came up, the court said it required a detailed hearing and it would have to go document by document. It was hence adjourned and listed for hearing after one month.

October 12,  2023: A bench of Justices Bela Trivedi and Dipankar Datta adjourned the matter when it came up, citing paucity of time. Khalid’s lawyer pleaded with the bench at the time, saying he would be able to “demonstrate in 20 minutes that there was no case against Khalid”. The matter was adjourned anyway. 

November 29, 2023: Khalid’s bail plea was adjourned due to a joint request made by both sides, as the senior lawyers were unavailable on the day.

January 10, 2024: The Supreme Court adjourned the matter after a request from Khalid’s lawyer for the same due to being occupied with an ongoing constitutional bench. After this, the Delhi police too requested that the matter be adjourned. 

The court said there should not be an impression created that it was unwilling to hear the matter, when it was actually the lawyers requesting adjournment. The court also said this would be the “final” adjournment in the matter.

January 24, 2024: The matter was adjourned by the apex court as it came up just before lunch and the bench was slated to change after lunch to hear part-heard matters. The matter has been adjourned to January 31, with the court saying it will be listed “high on the board”. 

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Also see
article image‘Keeping hope alive a struggle’: Banojyotsna on Umar Khalid’s incarceration, political upheaval post 2014
article imageFrom judge’s recusal to lawyer’s unavailability: Umar Khalid’s bail plea hangs by thread
article image‘Media’s lies surpassed even those of cops’: Umar Khalid tears into coverage of his case

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