Student activist Umar Khalid’s speech at Amravati in February 2020, which led to a case against him for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to incite Delhi riots, was “obnoxious and unacceptable”, the Delhi High Court observed on Friday, Bar and Bench reported.
The bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar also asked the Delhi Police to respond on Khalid’s bail plea.
Khalid was arrested on September 14, 2020, after clashes broke out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing the law in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26 of that year. He has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and has been in custody since then.
On March 24, a sessions court in Delhi had rejected his bail plea. Khalid has challenged the order in the Delhi High Court.
At Friday’s hearing, Khalid’s lawyer, Senior Advocate Trideep Pais, argued that the activist was not even in Delhi when the crime he has been accused of took place. The court asked Pais about the allegations against Khalid. To this, Pais said that Khalid has been charged on the basis of a speech he had made, Bar and Bench reported.
As Pais started to read out the speech, Justice Mridul stopped him midway and asked: “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 acting as agents of the British]’ is offensive? This is obnoxious.”
The judge said he was not surprised that the first information report against Khalid was filed on the basis of this speech.
“Prima facie this [the speech] is not acceptable,” the judge observed. “This is not acceptable in four corners of democracy and free speech.”
The bench also asked the public prosecutor if Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc) of the Indian Penal Code applied to statements made in the speech, Bar and Bench reported.
The court then issued a notice on Khalid’s bail plea and directed Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, representing the Delhi Police, to submit a response within three days.
“We will give you the shortest date, we don’t want to keep it pending for long,” the bench said.
The matter is scheduled to be heard on April 27.