Umar Khalid’s speech at Amravati was offensive and hateful: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court on Friday said that the speech delivered by student activist Umar Khalid at Amravati on February 2020, which is a portion of the charge sheet against him in the larger case of conspiracy related to the Northeast Delhi riots, was offensive, obnoxious, and hateful.

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The division bench comprising Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar said: “This is offensive, obnoxious. Don’t you think? These expressions being used, don’t you think they incite people? You say things like aapke purvaj angrezun ki dalali kar rahe the, you don’t think it is offensive? It is offensive per se. This is not the first time that you said so in this speech. You said this at least five times. It is almost as if we distinctly get the impression that it was only one particular community that fought for India’s independence,”

The court said this while hearing the appeal against the dismissal of his bail plea by a lower court in the case. “Don’t you think it foments religious ferment between groups? Did Gandhiji ever employ this language? Did Shaheed Bhagat Singh ever employ such language, even against the English? Did he? Is this what Gandhiji taught us that we can use intemperate language about people and their purvaj. We have no qualms about permitting free speech but what are you saying?” the bench asked.

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Senior Advocate Trideep Pais who was representing Khalid submitted that it was an opinion of an individual that was delivered in a speech and that there was “absolutely no incitement” and no reaction among the public afterward, because of his speech.

The court, however, asked whether the right to free speech stretches to making “obnoxious statements” and whether it does not attract the provisions of 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“All we can say is that Prima facie this is not acceptable. Everything else may be acceptable within the four corners of democracy and free speech, this is not acceptable,” the bench said.

Advocate Trideep Pais replied that the bench was handling a UAPA case where Khalid has been charged with terror. “Your lordship is putting me whether this is 153A or 153B,” he submitted.

“It is so easy to use UAPA today, just get a crew of people to give statements and that forms a charge sheet,” he further said.

The court said that it does not plan to keep the bail plea pending for long and asked the police to file a short reply within three working days. The bench listed that the further hearing will be held on April 27.

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