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Court can’t be prosecution’s stenographer: Umar Khalid’s counsel seeking bail for his client

New Delhi: A court cannot be the prosecution’s stenographer and has to apply its mind by looking at accusations in detail, the counsel for Umar Khalid said while arguing for bail to the former JNU student on Thursday.

Khalid is an accused in the alleged larger conspiracy behind the 2020 northeast Delhi communal riots. He has been booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The defence counsel commenced his arguments on a fresh application for the grant of regular bail to the former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student before Additional Sessions Judge Sameer Bajpai.

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Senior Advocate Trideep Pais said the prima facie test for the accused’s guilt would not hold unless the prosecution’s evidence has “probative value”.

“The court must be satisfied with the worth of the evidence. No terrorist act has been attributed…. The court cannot be the stenographer of the prosecution…. No statements have resulted in any recovery of anything attributed to me,” he said.

The defence counsel argued that there was a material change in the circumstances because of a July 2023 Supreme Court judgment that granted bail to activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, noting that they were in custody for five years.

“Time is also a changed circumstance. His further incarceration implies a change in the circumstances,” he said.

Khalid’s lawyer also said many of the alleged offences in the chargesheet against his client are without witnesses and just being part of a WhatsApp group does not make him an accused.

Citing the chargesheet, he said Khalid purportedly instructed Sharjeel Imam to mobilise youngsters for a “chakka jam” to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

“This is a baseless inference of the prosecution…. Fertile imagination of the author of the chargesheet. There are no witnesses for this either,” the defence counsel said.

“It is your duty to apply your mind and look at the accusations in detail,” he added.

The prosecution is likely to commence its arguments against the bail plea on April 3.

The court had sought the Delhi Police’s reply on Khalid’s bail plea on February 28.

Twenty people, including activists Sharjeel Imam, Khalid Saifi and former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain, have been booked for their alleged involvement in the larger conspiracy to incite the riots that broke out in the national capital in February 2020.

The case is being investigated by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.

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