A court in Delhi on Friday directed Tihar Jail authorities to allow former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid to step out of his cell, Live Law reported. The court, however, extended his judicial custody till November 20.
Khalid is in jail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged role in the large-scale communal violence that broke out in the Capital in February.
The former student leader told the court on Thursday that he was not being allowed to come out of his cell or talk to anyone, and claimed this was a kind of solitary confinement. The court had then summoned Tihar jail Superintendent Avadeshwar Kant.
Kant denied that Khalid had been confined to his cell. He claimed that he was being provided appropriate facilities for legal interviews, clothes and newspapers and also had permission to speak to his family, according to The Indian Express.
He added: “The cell where the inmate is being kept is located at such a place from where more than half of the ward movement is visible.”
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat observed that it was a very strange submission. “I am quite amazed by para number 6,” he said. “What is the purpose of this? It’s a very strange and bizarre thing to say.” To this, Kant answered: “From inside, he [Khalid] can also see others so that he doesn’t get bored. He can see others walking around.”
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Khalid’s lawyer lashed out at Kant. “Is he a zoo animal on display?” he asked. “That others can see him and he can see others when he is locked up? Why this discrimination?” Khalid’s counsel noted that he may have been kept inside the jail cell for 30 hours as Kant had not specified the duration that he was not allowed out.
The jail official then claimed that Khalid was allowed out of his cell from sunrise till 12 pm and from 3 pm till sunset.
The court asked Khalid if Kant’s statement was accurate. The former student leader answered that he was allowed to step out after the court’s intervention. “The superintendent came to meet me and himself brought me out,” Khalid said, according to Live Law. “After yesterday [Thursday], things have gotten better.” Khalid made a request for books and warm clothes, which the court allowed.
On October 4, Khalid was sent to judicial custody for 14 days in a case related to the February violence in Delhi.
A case of rioting was registered at the Khajuri Khas Police Station in which 15 people, including suspended Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Tahir Hussain, were arrested.
Khalid was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in September in a separate case related a larger conspiracy in the violence. He was sent to judicial custody till October 22 in the UAPA case, for which the hearing was held on Thursday.
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods.
The Delhi Police claim the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the facade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges.