Umar Khalid's Amravati speech was 'obnoxious, inciteful': Delhi HC

Friday, 22 April 2022 (12:38 IST)
New Delhi: A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on Friday hearing an appeal by Umar Khalid, an accused in the Northeast Delhi violence larger conspiracy case, termed his speech made during the anti-CAA movement in Maharashtra's Amravati as "obnoxious, inciteful".

Taking a strong note of a particular sentence in Khalid's speech delivered on February 17, 2020, the bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar said they were not surprised that UAPA was invoked and delivering such a speech in the name of freedom of speech was no where acceptable in four corners of the world.

Khalid was arrested by Delhi Police in September 2020 and charged with sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Police alleged that the Delhi Riots were part of a "premeditated, deep-rooted conspiracy which was hatched by Khalid and others".

Khalid moved high court challenging a lower court order denying bail to him. The lower court refused him bail last month holding that the UAPA against the former student leader were “prime facie” true.

The high court bench examining his acts in totality, said it was important to find out why the Delhi court refused him bail, and asked for his speech to be placed before it.

Umar Khalid was part of WhatsApp groups on Citizenship Amendment Act protests. In his defence, Khalid's counsel said his client was not even present in Delhi when the crime he is accused of was supposed to have taken place.

"All the violence, all over Delhi is subject matter of almost 750 FIRs. All of a sudden comes this fresh FIR of March 6 and I am named in that FIR. It had bailable offences. Three persons were arrested in that FIR," Khalid's counsel said.

The bench the asked: "Charge sheet has been filed? So what are sections with which you have been charged?" His counsel responded that charges have not been framed. When asked again "So what are you accused of?" he replied: "Silent whisper My Lord." He added that there was just one speech. The police went to TV channels requesting for that speech. Channels told them that they received it from a politician. This speech was delivered in Amravati.

"Apart from this, no speech was placed. It is in Hindi. Special court didn't even give a finding that this speech is provocative," Khalid's counsel told the high court. The Division Bench then asked for the text of the speech, which was read out in Hindi. Khalid had termed Amravati his home in the speech. He said he had no issues with this 'ghar wapsi' but has problems with other 'ghar wapsi'.

In his speech, the 34-year-old Khalid had invoked RSS and Hindu Mahasabha's alleged ties with the British government during freedom struggle and thanked "all those women at Shaheen Bagh who had been protesting despite all propaganda against them", his counsel read from the text.

"In that reign of terror, if anyone dared to step out, it was the women of Shaheen Bagh. They have tried to defame Shaheen Bagh but the Shaheen Bagh could not be silenced," the counsel read.

"The women were going to meet Amit Shah, but they (government) were so scared that these women were stopped. The talks of talk were again a jumla... This shows that they did not want to talk," the speech read.

"Now we want to say to Home Minister, aao kabhi haveli pe," Khalid had continued. "Mahatma Gandhi gave a call during freedom struggle to boycott British schools and university. One of those universities that came up against British rule was Jamia. Now these students are being caned."

Here the Bench spoke up and said: "These expressions being used, don't you think they incite people? You don't think "jab aapke purvaj angrezo ki dalali kar rahe the" is offensive? "It gives impression that only one community was fighting against the British? Did Gandhiji ever employ such language? Did Bhagat Singh ever employ this? Is this what Gandhiji told us?"

"We have no issues with freedom of speech. But what is this language? Can the free speech extend to making these statements? Does it not attract provisions of 153A and 153B?" "We are not surprised that the FIR is premised on this part of the speech... Prima facie this is not acceptable. This is not acceptable in four corners of democracy and free speech," the Bench added.

Section 153A is on promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, while 153B is on making or publishing any assertion, counsel, plea or appeal concerning the obligation of any class of persons, by reason of their being members of any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, and such assertion, counsel, plea or appeal causes or is likely to cause disharmony or feelings of others.

"On the next date, please show us the Indian jurisprudence on the issue," it said marking the next date of hearing as April 27. (UNI)

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