Activist Umar Khalid on Monday told a Delhi court to ask the investigating officer how the supplementary chargesheet filed against him in the February riots case was leaked to the media, when he is yet to get a copy from the court, The Quint reported. Khalid, a former student leader from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, is lodged in jail in connection with the Delhi riots case.
The activist also raised concerns on the manner in which a certain section of the media was reporting against him. “I am saying with absolute dismay that this pattern of media reporting on the chargesheet before the accused get a copy of it, is prejudicial to the trial,” Khalid told the court. “Please ask the prosecution and the investigating officer how is it that the media is getting a copy of the chargesheet before the accused is.”
The Delhi Police had filed the chargesheet in November but Khalid is yet to receive a copy. However, Khalid said that a certain section of the media has reported a few controversial aspects, including allegations that the activist has admitted his role in fuelling the Delhi riots in disclosure statements attached to the chargesheet.
“The media says that in my confessional statements [disclosure statements] I have admitted to my role in the riots, how does that make sense when I gave it in writing that I had not signed any statement while in police custody on October 4,” he said, according to The Quint.
The activist said that he was aware that confessional statements are not admissible in court but claimed that there was a pattern of leaking selected disclosure statements. “This is affecting my right to a free and fair trial,” Khalid said.
The activist claimed that the prosecution wanted to start a media trial against him. “I am repeating this, I have already told the court I did not sign any statement,” he said. “These attempts show that the prosecution is themselves not confident of the evidence against me and want to start a media trial.”
Advocate Trideep Pais, Khalid’s lawyer, alleged that a “vicious media campaign” was launched against his client. “Immediately after the chargesheet, the media started saying that Umar Khalid had admitted to the riots, to mobilising people, to bring in women as a front, arranged guns etc,” Pais said. “However, when you read the same chargesheet you will know that the accused they talk of was not even present in Delhi.”
The Delhi court, which was was hearing the application submitted on Sunday, listed the matter for hearing on Tuesday.
This is not the first time Khalid has moved the court against the media coverage in the case. The activist had told a court on November 28 that he was being subjected to a “vicious” media campaign on his alleged involvement in the Delhi violence case. Khalid had also asked for a copy of the chargesheet against him as he said he would be unable to defend himself during the “media trial” or understand the narrative involving him.
Khalid was arrested on October 1 in connection with the Delhi riots case. Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and February 26 in North East Delhi, claiming 53 lives and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods.
Khalid was also arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in September in a separate case relating to a larger conspiracy in the violence. The Delhi Police had on November 22 filed a chargesheet against Khalid and student activists Sharjeel Imam and Faizan Khan in the case.
In the 200-page chargesheet, the police claimed that Khalid had “remotely controlled” the Delhi riots. The former JNU student was accused of orchestrating the violence during United States President Donald Trump’s visit to Delhi.
The Delhi Police claim the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was planned by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Amendment Act. They also 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.