NEW DELHI — In Umar Khalid’s sixth hearing for bail in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, Senior Advocate Trideep Pais on Monday picked up where he left off on 8 November, attacking the statements given by six police witnesses with regards to a meeting held on the intervening night of 23-24 January in Seelampur, New Delhi, where the Delhi Police contend Khalid gave a speech exhorting those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to violence.
Pais said there was a pattern of inconsistencies and contradictions in the statements made to the police (a 161 statement) and those given later to a magistrate (a 164 statement), with witnesses “improving” their version of events to fit the police case that says Khalid, a political activist and Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and other leaders of the anti-CAA movement, planned the communal riots in February 2020.
“Advocacy against a law is not a crime,” Pais told Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat.
One police witness, called “Echo” in the chargesheet for FIR 59/2020 Delhi Crime Branch, Pais said, did not refer to the Seelampur meeting in the statement that he made to the police on 16 April 2020, but gave “granular details” of the meeting in a statement he made before a magistrate on 22 April 2020, even though the witness was not present at the meeting.
Similarly, police witness “Gamma” does not mention Khalid or the Seelampur meeting in the 161 statement, but says that Khalid gave a “provocative speech” in the 164 statement, said Pais.
Another police witness (Delta), Pais said, had deposed that he was reporting the activities of the protesters to the Delhi Police since January 2020. If the police knew about a conspiracy to instigate communal violence, Khalid’s lawyer asked why they did nothing to foil the plan.
“Isn’t it apparent that these are witnesses that are procured ex post facto and made to depose in a certain way,” Pais said.
In the hearing on 8 November, in reference to the 161 statement of the police witness (Sierra), a tea seller present at the Seelampur meeting, Pais said that it was “ridiculous” to allege that Khalid would have disclosed a violent plan before a tea seller from the outside, or that the tea seller would keep quiet about the alleged plot till June 2020 (when he gave his statement).
On the police allegation that the anti-CAA movement leaders offered inducements for filling the protest sites with Muslim women and children, Pais said that not a single woman or child among the thousands who participated had come forward to allege that they were used or exploited.
Pais reiterated that there was nothing “secret” about the Seelampur office or meeting, a photo of which was downloaded from Facebook and included in the charge sheet.
“The long and short of it is that these statements without any doubt are procured,” he said.
With reference to the Delhi Police account of a protest organized by the Welfare Party of India (WPI) on 10 February 2020 at Jantar Mantar, where women and children were bussed in from Jahangirpuri, and where Khalid was present along with his father SQR Ilyas, and allegedly spoke of involving Bangladeshi women in the anti-CAA protests, Pais said that the police witness (Helium) gave three statements — a 161 on 15 September 2020, two days after Khalid was arrested on 13 September, 164 on 7 November, and a second 161 on 18 November.
“To prove an incident on 10 February 2020, the first statement you have in your favour is two days after my arrest,” said Pais. “Something to be noted.”
In the first statement, according to Pais, the police witness said that Khalid and his father were present at the protest site, alleging no illegality. In the second statement, Pais said, the witness said that Khalid spoke of sensitizing Bangladeshi women, and in the third, said that one day before the meeting, on 9 February, somebody from the WPI told the witness that SQR Ilyas wanted Bangladeshi women to be brought in huge numbers.
“Why did he not say so in his first statement? Is his first statement so bland that it doesn’t suit them? After that, they produced him before a judge, and he refuses to make that statement so they take another 161 from him,” said Pais. “You have to continue cooking up the case against me even after I’m arrested.”
Khalid’s next bail hearing is scheduled for 9 December.