New Delhi: Delhi Police on Thursday before the Delhi High Court opposed the bail plea of United Against Hate (UAH) founder Khalid Saifi in a UAPA case related to the alleged conspiracy behind the 2020 riots saying that the prosecution’s case was “not a figment of imagination.”
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar was told that it was clear from the WhatsApp messages exchanged between the accused persons that protests against CAA and NRC had to be followed by a chakka jam’ and then violence.
“The protest does not remain in the domain of protest and became a conspiracy to commit riots,” Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad said.
“The prosecution case is exactly what is stated in DPSG (WhatsApp group). It states that the first step is protest followed by chakka jam followed by violence. All that is stated in DPSG. It’s not a figment of imagination of the prosecution,” he added.
Saifi and several others, including Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid, have been booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the “masterminds” of the February 2020 riots in the North-East Delhi, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.
The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
During his submissions, Prasad refuted Saifi’s claim that he had no connection with co-accused Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam, saying that the same was not borne out by the material on record.
While both Saifi and Khalid are “omnipresent” throughout the conspiracy, Imam visited a protest spearheaded by Saifi in Khajuri Khas and gave speeches there, he said.
“There are clear messages that Khajuri Khas has the potential to become Shaheen Bagh and Shaheen Bagh, we have seen, is not organic. It was masterminded by Sharjeel Imam,” Prasad submitted.
It was also argued that the speeches made by Saifi were similar to the speeches made by Khalid and Imam and to say that there are no speeches “is a wrong statement of fact.”
The Special Public Prosecutor further said that Saifi’s discharge in another riot case “does not take us to a logical end to say that there was no evidence.”
He said that the case in relation to Saifi and Khalid was closed on the ground that they were facing prosecution in the present case.
“The celebrated order regarding discharge that was quite a bone of contention to say look this is the kind of prosecution they are being made to face. As far as Khalid Saifi and Umar Khalid are concerned The reason for their discharge is not lack of evidence but because they are being prosecuted in this case,” Prasad said.
He also contended that Saifi cannot be granted bail just because Ishrat Jahan another accused in the case has been given that relief or because he was allegedly a victim of custodial violence.
“If they still have a grievance (after NHRC closed Saifi’s case on allegations of custodial violence), they have all the remedies available. They chose not to but (they choose to) agitate more than a year later by way of bail proceedings. Would bail be granted by such a contention?” Prasad asked.
He defended the trial court order refusing to grant bail to Saifi on the ground that the judge had passed the order after going through the WhatsApp chat among the accused, while objecting to the contention that UAPA cannot be invoked when “ordinary law” is capable of handling the case.
Khalid Saifi, 42, represented by senior advocate Rebecca John, had earlier argued that the case against him is not based on evidence but “frightening and alarming phrases” by the police and he cannot be incarcerated indefinitely.
Saifi has been in custody in the present case since March 2020.
He has contended that Delhi Police has created prejudice against him, and made a case even when there was no prima facie evidence for one.
He has also said that UAH was formed as a platform to campaign against the politics of hate, and the WhatsApp chats, which form the basis of the Delhi police case against Saifi “have to be taken in their totality” and his contribution in those groups has to be seen.
It has also been argued that Saifi’s role had to be “distinguished” from that of co-accused Umar Khalid who was recently denied bail by the bench and that he had “no connection” with co-accused Sharjeel Imam as well.
The matter would be heard next on December 12.