A Delhi court on Saturday discharged former JNU student Umar Khalid and United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi in a northeast Delhi riots case, about an incident of arson at a parking lot.
The court, while discharging the two men, noted that they were facing similar allegations of criminal conspiracy in an Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case.
This case was registered on the basis of a complainant by constable Sangram Singh, who was on duty when riots broke out near former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain’s home on February 24, 2020. He took shelter near a parking lot when members of the mob broke open the shutters of the parking lot and set fire to the parked vehicles.
The chargesheet in this case was filed on June 2 against 15 persons. Saifi was made an accused in a supplementary chargesheet filed on 3 September, 2020 and Umar’s name featured in the third supplementary chargesheet filed on December 26.
Umar and Saifi were arrested in this case on allegations of criminal conspiracy. Saifi was accused of arranging a meeting between Tahir and Umar on January 8, 2020 at Shaheen Bagh, where they allegedly planned to incite riots by blocking roads during anti-CAA protests. Saifi was also accused of being involved in financial transactions with Tahir in January 2020 for preparation of riots. Umar was accused of meeting with Tahir for preparation of the riots.
Both men were booked on the basis of Tahir’s disclosure statement. Their lawyers have argued that there was no clarity on the nature of this meeting at Shaheen Bagh.
Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramchala discharged the two accused noting they were facing similar allegations in a separate Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case, which deals with the conspiracy to commit riots in Delhi.
The court called the UAPA case about “a larger conspiracy under which several smaller conspiracies are hatched.”
“Planning to ignite a communal riot at a large level and taking steps for prosecution of such plan, could be an umbrella conspiracy and participants to this conspiracy may or may not be part of each smaller conspiracies and vice versa,” the court said.
The court defined a smaller conspiracy as smaller plans formulated to pursue the objectives of an umbrella conspiracy. It noted that these smaller plans are made to execute incidents like riots involving other persons.
Apart from Saifi and Umar, the court had also discharged three other men, who were accused of harbouring Tahir while he was on the run, noting that they were arrested on the basis of Tahir’s disclosure statements which was inadmissible as evidence.
The UAPA case has a total of 15 accused persons including student activists like Sharjeel Imam, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, among others. The special cell has accused them of conspiring to initiate riots in Delhi under the guise of anti-CAA protests during the visit of former US President Donald Trump.
The court framed charges against Hussain and 11 others under sections 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), 153A (Punishment for knowingly carrying arms in any procession), 436 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc), and several sections of rioting of the IPC.
The court, while charging Tahir, had largely stuck to the allegations stemming from the parking lot case. It noted that even though this was not a case where the evidence showed presence of any named accused, it noted it is not necessary for any accused to be physically present to achieve their common objective.
Using this reasoning, the court said that it is not required that Tahir should have physically visited this parking along with the mob.
“It is sufficient to show that he was member of that mob and the role imputed to him is to instigate the mob to attack, to guide and to facilitate such attack, in order to accomplish the common object of this unlawful assembly,” the court said.