- Umar Khalid was arrested on 14th September 2020, and is currently imprisoned at Tihar Jail, New Delhi under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967).
- Umar was accused of creating a “larger conspiracy” and creating political imbalance.
- Umar applied his bail, in the view that the allegations were false and were targeting him.
- On 24th March 2022, his bail application has been rejected.
Umar Khalid was a former student of JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). He was involved in the famous Delhi riots and was accused under the UAPA act. The JNU has always played a very significant role in promoting student activism. Since December 2019, the JNU Student’s Union (JNUSU) have been protesting against the CAA Bill, (Citizenship Amendment Act). By November 2020, the JNU experienced a hike is the hostel and college academic fee, which was protested by the JNUSU. As a part of the protest the student decided to not appear for their semester exams and boycotted all JNU activities. Subsequently, the fees were reduced, but only for those students who came under the BPL family’s category. Others were forced to remit the hiked fee. The JNU students and professors were attacked by a mob for protesting against CAA in January 2020. On social media, screenshots of talks from WhatsApp groups called "Friends of RSS" and "Unity Against Left" were posted, in which group members were seen plotting an attack on JNU students. The members of the gang were discovered to be ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) members.
On January 5th 2020, 50 armed men with rods, acid, chains, sticks, bricks, acid and many more dangerous arms entered the JNU and attacked the students and professors. The attack lasted for 3 hours, resulting in subsequent escape of the mob. They screamed chants that referred to the victims as "Naxalites" and "anti-national." Attackers yelled "Jai Shri Ram!" (Hail Lord Ram!), a term frequently used by far-right Hindu organizations as battle cry. The students and professors were rushed to All India Institute Of Medical Sciences(AIIMS), New Delhi. When the incident began, some 50 professors and 200 students were meeting on campus to discuss their objections related to the hike in dormitory costs, according to a professor. Some have portrayed the incident as a means of preventing students from speaking out against the fees rise and CAA. From all the hostels, Sabarmati hostel accommodating 400 students was the worst affected. There were pieces of broken glasses and furniture all over the hostel. A few students locked themselves in the hostel rooms to escape the attack, whereas some tried to jump out of windows, injuring themselves.
During the entire attack there was not even a single visit of the Police to take required actions, nor did the police in the campus try to stop the mob from attacking. On hearing about the event, the crowd assaulted journalists and social activist Yogendra Yadav, who sought to access the college. Aishe Ghosh, the president of JNUSU, was also seen bleeding from the injuries she got during the assault. Cars and several hostel rooms at the Mahi Mandavi, Sabarmati, and Periyar hostels were destroyed. In addition, the School of Social Sciences was impacted. In footage, a throng of assailants could be seen marching towards the university with sticks. The crowd left without being arrested or detained by the authorities after vandalizing the campus for around three hours. Between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., police received 50 SOS calls, but they were only given formal clearance to access the university at 7:45 p.m.
Umar Khalid was arrested in September 2020, due to the reason of police suspecting a larger conspiracy involved behind the JNU attack. Umar was arrested under the UAPA.
The UAPA is basically an Anti- Terror law. UAPA followed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, (TADA). The Act gives the centre and state authority to deal with terrorist activities in a severe manner. UAPA is basically a “more effective in preventing certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities” The UAPA has been updated from time to time to make it more strict. Section 13, 16, 17 and 18 of UAPA (unlawful activities include spoken, written, actions, signs and words) was used to implicate Umar Khalid.
- SECTION 13- Anyone who "advocates, abets, advises, or incites the conduct of any criminal activity" can face up to seven years in jail under Section 13 ("Punishment for unlawful acts"), which has been used against Khalid and others.
- SECTION16- In the instance of a fatality as a result of the act, Section 16 ("Punishment for terrorist act") provides death penalty or life imprisonment as a punishment. A terrorist act, according to the law, is one that is designed to endanger or is likely to undermine India's unity, integrity, security, or sovereignty, and that results in or is likely to result in death, injury, or property damage.
- SECTION 17- Raising finances for terrorist actions is punishable.
- SECTION 18- Conspiracy behind a terrorist attack or "any conduct preliminary to the execution of a terrorist act" is punishable.
PROVISIONS OF POTA AND TADA act
POTA act: The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002 (POTA) was passed by the Indian Parliament in 2002 with the goal of bolstering anti-terrorism efforts. The Act was passed in reaction to multiple terrorist acts in India, including the attack on the Parliament.
TADA act: TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) was an anti-terrorism law in India that was in effect between 1985 and 1995 (updated in 1987) and applied across the country in the aftermath of the Punjab insurgency. It took effect on May 23, 1985.
SOME IMPORTANT CASE DECSIONS
The Safoora Zargar case
- Safoora was arrested by the Delhi police on 10th April 2020 and was accused of making defamatory hate speeches against the government on 23rd February 2020. On 20th April 2020, Safoora Zargar was additionally convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 as the riots were alleged to be a predetermined conspiracy. Safoora’s lawyer applied for bail on 18th April 2020 but it subsequently was rejected by the court. Again, Safoora’s advocate applied for bail on 30th May but the same was rejected by the Patiala House Court on the ground that there is an embargo for granting bail under Section 43D (5) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
- This bail rejection by the Patiala House Court was heavily criticized both domestically and internationally. Thus, bail should have been granted on humanitarian grounds. Zargar's advocate again applied for bail on 23rd June 2020 and was finally granted bail on humanitarian grounds and certain conditions were imposed on the grant of bail.
Umar’s allegations were based on FIR 59 of 2020. He had charges of IPC under section 302- murder, 153A- promoting and practicing enmity between people on the basis of religion and 124A of sedition. Police stated that they found the incidents that happened at JNU was “pre-planned” and “larger conspiracy”. Umar was found giving proactive speeches and engaging in propaganda of rights of minorities. Additionally, the police found some WhatsApp chats, some witness statements, fund receipts of Umar within India and overseas as well supporting the execution of the conspiracy.
IPC SECTION 302-
Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the punishment for murder, hence anyone suspected of murder will face charges under this section. In addition, if a person accused with murder is found guilty, IPC section 302 stipulates the appropriate sentence.
The aim to foster emotions of hostility or hatred amongst various groups of people is the essence of the offence under Section 153A IPC. The language of the piece of writing, as well as the circumstances in which it was produced and published, must be used to determine the aim.
Section 124A of IPC says that “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or by any other means, incites or attempts to incite hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection against the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with life imprisonment, or with imprisonment for three years, along with a fine."
THE CURRENT SCENARIO
Due to the charges against Umar Khalid, he was arrested on September 14th 2020 and is imprisoned in the Tihar Jail of Delhi. His bail hearing went for several months. Umar Khalid’s bail has been deferred for 3 times. Subsequently, on 24th march 2022, his bail has again been denied vis-a-vis the Delhi riots issue. Umar’s lawyer Trideep Pais, argued that all the allegations on his client were false and were purposefully drafted in such a manner. Khalid's speech, he maintained, was about Gandhi, harmony, and the Constitution, which isn't a crime. He also added that all the witnesses were chosen carefully to plot a “well-planned” drama. Umar Khalid was accused of being a "veteran of sedition" and the "quiet whisper behind the initial phase of the 2019 riots," according to the prosecution. The lawyer for the student leader maintained that these were only rhetorical accusations with no substance in truth.
On March 6, a FIR was filed against Khalid by Delhi Police based on information supplied by an informer to Sub-Inspector Arvind Kumar of the Crime Branch's drugs squad. According to the FIR, the informer told Kumar that the February riots in Northeast Delhi were part of a "premeditated plan" hatched by Khalid, one Danish, and two others linked with various organizations.
In addition to Umar Khalid, activist Khalid Saifi, JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar and former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, and others have been charged in the case under the stringent UAPA law, including some professors and social activists.According to reports the Delhi police have filed a “17,000-page chargesheet and a 1000-page chargesheet naming Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Faizan Khan, Danish, Parvez, Ilyas, 'United Against Hate' chief Khalid Saifi, Congress ex-councillor Ishrat Jahan, Tahir Hussain, RJD youth wing’s Meeran Haider, Pinjda Tod activists Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita as accused of 'criminal conspiracy' that led to the Delhi riots which killed 53 in February 2020.”
ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS IN INDIA
Anti-terrorism legislation in India has long been a source of contention. One argument is that these regulations infringe on people' basic rights, which are guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. The legislature has passed anti-terrorist legislation in the past, and the judiciary has backed it, albeit reluctantly. The goal was to pass these laws and have them in effect until the situation improved. The goal was not to make these severe measures a permanent part of the legal system. However, due to ongoing terrorist activity, the statutes have been reintroduced with the necessary changes. The National Security Act of 1980 and the UAPA are the current laws in place in India to combat terrorism.
Following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, the world's attitude toward terrorists and terrorist organizations has altered, and regulations to combat such acts have grown considerably stricter. After the 13 December attack on the Indian Parliament, which is seen as a symbol of our democracy, it became necessary to enact a law that would be more stringent so that terrorists could not go free, because there was no law that could be used as a weapon against the rising terrorist activities in India after TADA expired in 1995 due to widespread complaints that it was being abused.
Umar Khalid, a 34-year-old, former student of JNU was accused of planning a larger conspiracy and creating a larger distrust. The conspirators had a "specific goal, intention, and mandate" to provoke "disaffection and uprising against the Government of India," according to the report. Some people support Umar providing that the allegations on Umar Khalid were false and were a part of a well-planned drama. Therefore, months of hard work of Umar’s lawyer went wasted when the bail application was rejected on Thursday 24th march 2022.
In the light of the status quo of terrosim across the world and even in India, it is difficult to judge the validity of the UAPA's provision, that has imposed embargo on granting bail for offences under the said statute, under which the bail plea of Umar Khalid was rejected.