New Delhi: Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid told a court here on Monday that statements of the witnesses in the Delhi riots conspiracy case were written by someone else and given to them as police did not have any evidence, and a case can’t be made against him on half-truths.
Khalid and several others have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a stringent anti-terror law, and are accused of being the “masterminds” of the north-east Delhi riots in February, 2020 which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
Arguing his bail plea before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, senior advocate Trideep Pais read out the statements of three protected witnesses and claimed that they were contradictory and cooked up.
During the proceedings, Pais read out a police allegation from the charge sheet regarding an alleged secret meeting in Delhi’s Seelampur area on January 23 and 24 last year in which Khalid had allegedly directed that the protests be escalated to riots and result in the spilling of blood of policemen and others.
Denying that it was a secret meeting, Pais argued that its pictures were taken and uploaded on Facebook. “I did not know that secret meeting were put up on Facebook. Does it really look secret to this Court?,” he asked.
He also called the protected witness Sierra, who gave a statement to the police on this alleged secret meeting, cooked up.
“From the statement, it is clear that Sierra is the chaiwala [teaseller] who comes and gives chai in the meetings. He is the only witness who says that the meeting was secret. All other witnesses do not claim this. They all contradict each other,” Pais said.
He added, “How would a person speak in front of a chaiwala and spill the entire beans of conspiracy? The witness waits from January to June and appears miraculously before the police. Clearly a cooked-up witness.”
Pais asked how a tea seller miraculously know the names of all the people in the secret meeting, including those who are not even there.
The advocate submitted, “He said Natasha Narwal was present but she was not there. Should you believe this man?”
“You [Police] can’t have half-truths to go and make a case against me. Clearly, these statements are written by someone else, given to these people to pass them off as theirs because you don’t have any evidence. So, you call people to the police station and tell them that I want to implicate so and so,” the lawyer said.
Pais further said that after Sierra did not record the statement before the magistrate under section 164 of CrPC, the police moved on to another protected witness Smith.
Smith, however, did not say that the meeting was secret or took place in a secret office, the lawyer said. He added, Reference to Umar Khalid is his presence in a meeting and nothing beyond that. So, the secret meeting theory is diminished by this witness.
He also referred to another protected witness Bravo and told the court that heavy reliance was placed on his statements to implicate Khalid. Bravo gave a statement about a Delhi Protest Support Group (DPSG) WhatsApp group involving Khalid and the formation of a high-level committee in December 2019.
“What is interesting is that only four messages were sent by me on the DPSG group. I simply gave people the location of the protest site. This is the sum total of my interaction,” Pais said.
“He said that Bravo admittedly was part of the group and left it on February 22, 2020, due to disagreements but gave the statement to the police on June 8. I wonder how can such a statement surface after so many months,” he asked.
Further, he said that bravo was an indication of a pattern of false implication in the FIR and charge sheet. Pais told the court that the witness had cherry-picked the names in his statement.
“There is no high-level committee. He cooks up the high-level committee. He cherry-picks names. Most people assigned roles are not arrested and I am arrested. Whenever he refers to me, he refers to me with a clutch of other names. Their responsibilities are more. Mine are insignificant or not at all,” Pais said.
He added, “The witness is unable to point out a specific activity that I undertook by virtue of which it can be said that I did an illegal act, a terrorist act.”
In the last hearing on November 2, Khalid had said that the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest was secular but the charge sheet in the Delhi riots conspiracy case was communal and that the police fabricated a story to suit their narrative, calling it a “naked form of false implication”.
Besides him, JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain and several others have also been booked under the stringent anti-terror law in the case.