Former JNU student Umar Khalid told a Delhi court Thursday that he has been kept under solitary confinement by Tihar Jail authorities for several days and asked the court why he was being punished. “I need security but security cannot be that I cannot step out at all. This is like a punishment, why am I been given this punishment?”, he asked the court during the hearing.
Khalid was produced before Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Amitabh Rawat along with co-accused JNU student, Sharjeel Imam in connection with a UAPA case filed in the northeast Delhi riots. The court then summoned the Jail Superintendant to appear before it on Friday.
When the hearing began, Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the Delhi Police, moved an application seeking 30 days of judicial custody for Khalid and Imam. ASJ Rawat, however, informed Prasad that he was unwell and since he could not look at the case files, he cannot grant the request for extension of their judicial custody.
As the court fixed the next date of hearing, Khalid’s counsel Trideep Pais told the court that Umar has been raising his hand for some time as he wanted to say something.
When the court granted Khalid permission to speak, he told the court, “Your honour, I just wanted to bring your attention to some events that have happened inside the jail. I am aware that you have passed an order on 17 October saying that I would be given adequate security cover and will be able to continue with my routine day to day without any discrimination. However, for the last 3-4 days, I have been not allowed to step out of my jail cell, it’s practically solitary confinement. Nobody is allowed near my cell. I am not allowed to step out of my cell. No one is allowed to talk to me. I wanted to just bring this to your notice because this is in contravention of your orders”.
Khalid then told the court about a visit by a jail superintendent recently when he was let out for ten minutes. “In the morning, the jail superintendent visited me and I pointed out that this is absolutely not right what is happening and this is the grievance I have. The superintendent assured me that I (jail cell) should be opened. When he was there, I was let out for ten minutes, then he left and the jail staff and I have not been allowed outside ever since. This is solitary confinement, I have also not been well for the past 3 days and not been allowed to walk…as my comfort. I need security but security cannot be that I cannot step out at all. This is like a punishment, why am I been given this punishment?” Khalid said.
Khalid also told the court that he was not allowed to speak directly to the judge during video conferencing hearings by the jail staff. “I would also like you to tell the jail staff to unmute me. Because when they wanted to speak to you they were not unmuting me and said that unless and until a judge asks you to unmute, we can’t allow”.
ASJ Rawat directed the jail staff sitting beside Khalid to appear before the camera and told him, “If the inmate wants to say something then inform the court and call the jail superintendent tomorrow.”
On September 24, the court had sent Khalid to judicial custody after he was allowed to meet his parents one last time before entering the jail premises.
Khalid has been arrested in connection with a UAPA case investigated by the Special Cell of Delhi Police.
According to police, an FIR was registered against Khalid on March 6 based on information provided by an informer to sub-inspector Arvind Kumar of the narcotics unit of the Crime Branch. As per the FIR, Kumar said the informer told him that the Northeast Delhi riots in February was part of a “premeditated conspiracy” allegedly hatched by Khalid, one Danish, and two others associated with different organisations.