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regular-article-logo Sunday, 26 May 2024

Umar Khalid takes back Supreme Court bail plea but to fight UAPA  

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Khalid, sought the apex court’s permission to withdraw the bail application as soon as the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 15.02.24, 04:40 AM
Umar Khalid.

Umar Khalid. File picture.

Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid, in jail for over three years in connection with the 2020 Delhi communal riots, withdrew his bail application from the Supreme Court on Wednesday citing “changed circumstances”, but decided to persist with his parallel petition challenging the constitutional validity of the anti-terror law UAPA.

The development comes after a series of adjournments of Khalid’s bail pleas in the apex court.

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Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Khalid, sought the apex court’s permission to withdraw the bail application as soon as the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday.

“Your Lordships, I want to withdraw the application (bail). I will try to argue the legal question (UAPA validity), but want to withdraw the bail application due to change in circumstances. We will try our luck in the trial court,” Sibal told the bench of Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal.

Sibal did not elaborate on what the “changed circumstances” were. However, legally there is no bar on a person moving any number of bail applications before the trial court or the appellate court citing “changed circumstances”, a strategy normally adopted by the defence when conditions look favourable for getting bail from the court concerned.

Justice Trivedi, who was heading the bench, agreed to Khalid’s plea for withdrawal of the bail application.

Khalid has been in jail for nearly three years and is facing charges under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) in connection with the 2020 Delhi riots.

Khalid is seeking bail on parity with the other co-accused — Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha — who had been released earlier.

Khalid has also filed a separate petition challenging the validity of the UAPA, which has already been challenged by various other organisations.

Iirked by repeated adjournments of the bail plea hearing sought either by the Delhi police or the defence, the Supreme Court bench led by Justice Trivedi had on January 24 warned that there would be no further adjournments.

The bench had earlier pointed out that the delay in the hearing showed the court in a bad light even though it was a result of the failure of the respective parties to argue the matter.

The apex court had initially issued a notice on May 18 last year and wanted to hear the bail plea during the summer vacation in June. However, counsels appearing for Khalid and the Delhi police expressed their inability to argue the matter during the vacation. It was then listed on August 9, but Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, one of the judges on the bench headed by Justice A.S. Bopanna, recused from the case.

Thereafter the matter was listed on August 18 but got adjourned after a brief hearing to October 12. When it came up for hearing on October 12, it was again adjourned owing to paucity of time.

The plea was again listed on November 29 but got adjourned to January 10 upon a request from both sides. Thereafter it was adjourned to January 24 and then January 31.

Over 53 people had died and 200 were injured in the violence that had erupted in northeast Delhi in February 2020 during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

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