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‘That speech is in bad taste does not make it terrorist activity’: HC on Umar’s speech

If the prosecution’s case is premised on how offensive the speech was, that by itself will not constitute an offence, the Delhi High Court says while hearing the activist’s bail application.

At Umar Khalid's bail hearing, High Court deliberates on meaning of ‘inquilab’: ‘Revolution not necessarily bloodless’Khalid’s counsel submitted that the witness statements cited by the prosecution or Delhi Police as evidence are without any basis and cannot be even considered prima facie. (File Photo)

The Delhi High Court, which had last month termed activist Umar Khalid’s speech at Amravati in February 2020 as offensive, obnoxious and hateful, Friday said that while it may be distasteful, it did not amount to “terrorist activity”. The speech forms part of the chargesheet against Khalid in the larger conspiracy case of Northeast Delhi riots in which provisions of UAPA have been invoked.

“That the speech is in bad taste does not make it a terrorist activity. We understand that extremely well. If the case of the prosecution is premised on how offensive the speech was, that by itself will not constitute an offence. We will give them (prosecution) an opportunity once you conclude. Offensive and distasteful it was. It may tantamount to defamation. It may tantamount to other offences but it does not amount to a terrorist activity,” said the division bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar.

The court made the observation after Khalid’s counsel, senior advocate Trideep Pais, referred to the speech in his arguments during the hearing of Khalid’s bail appeal. When Pais submitted that a witness had told police that “so and so told me he (Khalid) gave a provocative speech”, Justice Mridul observed that the “expression ‘provocative’ does not make anything provocative”.

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On April 22, the division bench had said, “This is offensive, obnoxious. Don’t you think? These expressions being used, don’t you think they incite people? You say things like aap ke purvaj angrezon ki dalali kar rahe the, you don’t think it is offensive? It is offensive per se.”

The bail appeal was adjourned for the next hearing on July 4, the date on which Pais is likely to conclude his arguments.

Since the prosecution is yet to start arguments in the case, the court observed it may not be possible to conclude the matter before Friday, the last working day before summer vacation. The court closes for vacation in June and will reopen on July 4. “This matter has taken more than we envisaged that it would. We can have it only on reopening now…,” said the court, adding that Khalid’s case cannot be heard on a day-to-day basis at the cost of others.

First published on: 30-05-2022 at 05:07:43 pm
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