I No Longer Hold Expectations, Says Umar Khalid’s Partner Banojyotsna After 13th Adjournment of Bail Plea

The Supreme Court postponed the bail plea hearing for the incarcerated activist to February 7, making it the 13th adjournment.
I No Longer Hold Expectations, Says Umar Khalid’s Partner Banojyotsna After 13th Adjournment of Bail Plea

New Delhi- Hope and Optimism seem to be flashy words only gracing the dictionaries of the privileged. Many individuals in jail, like Umar Khalid, a former JNU student and activist, are still awaiting for years the trial of their cases to begin.

Booked under stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA for allegedly conspiring communal riots in Delhi, Khalid has been languishing in the city’s Tihar prison since 2020.

Hearing on his bail petition, which marked the 13th adjournment on February 1 in the Supreme Court, exemplifies the staggering delays in his case.

The Mooknayak spoke to his partner Banojyotsna Lahiri – who is a Delhi-based researcher. She opened up about the complex web of legal systems they are having to navigate through and how hope has become a difficult term for her and Khalid’s family.

Opening about the multiple adjournments, Lahiri said, “Our case is yet to be heard. Sometimes, our own issues, such as the engagements of our counsel, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibbal, in constitutional matters caused delays. However, whenever we requested a different date, we ensured that it was only a few days later and not months away. It’s been nearly a year, and the application has even been heard once. At multiple occasions, either the prosecution or the bench was not available for hearing. We are only experiencing delays.”

“As citizens”, she said, “we must maintain faith in the judiciary, and we are still doing it”. “We have pursued every available legal recourse, knocking on the doors of every court. However, the progress has been slow. We have a hearing scheduled for next week. Let’s see what unfolds,” she added.

Repeated disappointments can erode a person's optimism. “I no longer hold expectations. Since June, each time we have attended, we hoped for progress. But after a series of disappointments, not one or twice but thirteenth time, what more can you do? At this point, I am numb. I don’t expect anything at this point,” she said, with her voice chocking.

The Mooknayak also tried to reach out to two lawyers in the legal team of the incarcerated activist, but they did not comment on the ongoing battle.

Khalid is charged under multiple sections of the UAPA, the Arms Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. He has been in custody since September 2020, awaiting his bail plea to be heard.

A Timeline of Adjournments:

March 2022: A Sessions Court in Delhi denied bail to Umar Khalid after eight months of hearing. Judge Amitabh Rawat cited a “premeditated conspiracy”, which according to him, caused violence in February 2020 in the city.

April 2022: Khalid challenged the Session Court’s decision in the Delhi High Court – which on October 18, 2022 upheld the lower court’s order, citing the prosecution's prima facie case against him.

The court ruled that Khalid’s alleged communication with co-accused and actions was a “terrorist act” under the UAPA.

December 2022: Delhi's Karkardooma Court acquitted him of charges of stone pelting during the riots, but he remained behind the bars in connection with the larger conspiracy case.

On December 12, 2022: Khalid received a week-long furlough with several restrictions on his meeting people and talking to the media. He returned jail on December 31, 2022.

May 2023: A division bench of the Supreme Cour, headed by justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, issued notice to the Delhi Police on his bail application.

July 2023: When the matter came up for hearing, the Delhi Police asked for more time to respond. Khalid’s lawyer questioned the need for a reply in a bail case, given the accused lengthy incarceration.

The police cited the extensive chargesheets against him, prompting the court to grant the prosecution 12 days to file its response. However, the court remarked that the matter could be resolved quickly.

July 2023: The case was listed to be heard by justices AS Bopanna and Bela M Trivedi, but Khalid’s lawyer requested a one-week adjournment – which the court granted.

August 2023: The case was listed before justices AS Bopanna and Prashant Kumar Mishra, but Justice Mishra recused himself. Consequently, the matter was adjourned for another bench to take it up.

August 17, 2023: The bail plea appeared on the day’s cause list but was mistakenly assigned again to justices Bopanna and Mishra, even though the latter had already recused himself earlier. As a result, the matter was removed from the cause list.

August 18, 2023: Khalid's bail plea was heard by Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi, who indicated that the case would require scheduling on non-miscellaneous days, usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, for longer hearings. Mondays and Fridays, designated as miscellaneous days, are typically reserved for new matters.

September 5, 2023: His bail hearing was postponed due to his lawyer Kapil Sibal was arguing before another bench, which was handling Article 370 pleas. Justices Trivedi and Dipankar Dutta, acknowledging Sibal’s busy schedule, agreed to adjourn the hearing to the following week – considering it the “last opportunity” to address the plea.

September 12, 2023: The court deemed the matter necessitated a detailed review, intending to scrutinize each document carefully. Consequently, the hearing was postponed and rescheduled for one month later.

October 2023: A bench led by justices Bose and Trivedi adjourned Khalid’s hearing to November 1, citing time constraints. His counsel claimed he needed only 20 minutes to demolish the allegation against his client.

On October 31, 2023: The same bench clubbed Khalid’s bail application and writ petitions challenging UAPA provisions that were invoked in the Tripura violence case. As Sibal was unavailable, the next hearing was scheduled for November 22, 2023.

November 29, 2023- Khalid’s bail plea was adjourned due to a mutual request from both sides, as senior lawyers were unavailable on the scheduled day.

January 10, 2024: At the behest of Khalid’s lawyer, who was occupied in a constitutional matter, the Supreme Court postponed the hearing. Subsequently, the Delhi Police also requested an adjournment. The court clarified that the delay stemmed from the lawyers’ requests, affirming this as the “final” adjournment for the case.

January 24, 2024: The apex court adjourned the matter just before lunch due to an impending bench change to address part-heard matters. The case was now scheduled for January 31 to receive priority on the docket.

January 31, 2024: The bench could not take up the matter and the hearing was re-scheduled for the next day.

February 1, 2024: The Supreme Court deferred the hearing to February 7. The Bench, led by justices Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal, was unable to take up the matter on Thursday.

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