By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: A local Delhi court has extended the judicial remand of former JNU student leader and activist Umar Khalid and JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam to November 20, 2020. While Khalid told the court on Thursday that he is being kept in solitary confinement by Tihar Jail officials. Solitary confinement is usually reserved for inmates who are a danger to others, and so Khalid asked the court why he was being punished with such treatment.
Khlaid told Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat via video conferencing that, “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?”
He also made complaint today. Taking up Khalid’s complaint of yesterday, judge Rawat observed, “There is a grievance of the accused that in the garb of providing security, you are keeping him confined to the cell. What is this?”
The Judge ultimately directed the Tihar Jail Superintendent to treat Khalid at par with other prisoners. These included providing him with books, warm clothes in view of the impending winter and time out of his cell.
Khalid had been active in the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests until the COVID-19 pandemic and condemned the anti-Muslim pogrom that took place in the Delhi riots. In the past year, he, along with many other activists were arrested using the draconian UAPA law.
Khalid’s counsel Trideep Pais requested permission for him to speak. Khalid told the court that for the past 3-4 days, jail officials had forbidden him from stepping out his jail cell, forbidden from speaking to him. Khalid noted that on 17th October, the judge said that he must be provided security so he can go about his day without being discriminated, but this did not mean effectively putting him into solitary confinement. While the order was for his security, it seemed Tihar Jail officials were punishing Khalid without reason.
He told the Judge that that one morning, the jail superintendent visited him, and agreed with his grievance and assured that his jail cell should be opened. When he was there, Khalid was left out for ten minutes, but after he left jail staff locked him in once again.
Recently, Dr G N Saibaba also raised similar concerns. The professor- who is 90% disabled- was also arrested under UAPA and denied many basic rights including medicine. He is also living in solitary confinement in an “anda cell” and asked why he was being punished. Unfairly putting them in solitary and denying them basic care seems to be jail officials method of punishing activists charged under UAPA.
The Delhi Police in August arrested Imam in connection with the riots in the city in February and Khalid in the dead of the night on September 13, on the charge of conspiring to engineer communal violence in Delhi during the visit to India of US President Donald Trump earlier this year. Both had been booked under sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Khalid has also been charged with sedition and 18 other sections of the Indian Penal Code, including murder and attempt to murder.
On March 6th, an FIR was registered against police by sub-inspector Arvind Kumar, who alleged that, according to an informer, the riots in North-east Delhi was a “premeditated conspiracy” hatched by Khalid and a few others.
In the meantime, police have dropped their assertion that the conspiracy to trigger violence in northeast Delhi during the visit to India of US President Donald Trump was hatched in a meeting on January 8, 2020.
The Delhi police had sought the extension of both the men’s judicial custody for 30 days.
Khalid’s lawyer Pais and Imam’s lawyer Surabhi Dhar both argued that there was no question of the accused absconding. Pais said the judicial custody request is a copy of the police custody request, to the extent that both have the same typos.
According to LiveLaw, Pais said “There is absolutely no application of mind. Even typographical errors have been copied. ‘Tampering’ has become ‘tempering.”