In a bail application which cited 'brutal custodial torture', United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi's second attempt for bail under FIR 44 continues to be heard for about two months now in a Karkadooma court.
The Quint has attended the virtual bail hearings, spoken to his counsel and family to track the progress in the case. Saifi, who has been in jail for over six months now, has been projected as one of the main conspirators of the Delhi riots in the various charge sheets submitted by Delhi Police.
He has been booked in three FIRs related to the Delhi riots in total. One is FIR 44 at the Jagatpuri police station, the other is FIR 101 under Khajuri Khas police station and the third is FIR 59 being investigated by Delhi Police special cell. The third FIR is where the anti-terror law UAPA has been invoked and the alleged conspiracy is being probed.
To clarify, even if he is granted bail under this FIR, he still has two cases lodged against him, and therefore will continue to be lodged in jail.
26 Feb: The Dismantling of Khureji Protest Site as Riots Raged in Delhi
Back on 26 February, while riots were raging in northeast Delhi, Saifi had received calls by locals who complained that the police was violently dismantling the Khureji protest site and lathi charging women, his wife 33-year-old Nargis, recalled. He went to the site to mediate. He was seen talking to the policemen, who then took him to the Jagatpuri police station. Retrospectively this would be the first case that Saifi would get arrested for, for charges including rioting and attempt to murder.
About eight hours into being picked, he was brought to the parking lot of Karkadooma court with severe injuries.
On the day, Saifi’s counsel did not reach court on time for the hearing, leaving it entirely on Saifi to bring his custodial torture to the notice of the judge, which he did.
While opposing bail the first time around, the police opposed the allegation of police torture, by stating that if that was the case then the learned counsel of the accused would have mentioned it to the magistrate right then (on 26 February). The lawyers argued that Khalid informed the judge and more importantly, that despite the magistrate directing the police for an inquiry into the torture, the police is yet to produce any such report.
The bail application, which is the second one in the same case, describes the custodial torture. It reads, "He suffered severe fractures in both his legs and injuries on his hands. As a result, he had plasters on both his legs and he was unable to walk properly for almost two months." Saifi is now being represented by advocates Bhavook Chauhan, Rajat Kumar, Harsh Bora and senior advocate Rebecca John.
Custodial Torture: Fractures, Beard Plucked and Nail Marks on Face
Videos of Khalid being taken away from the Khureji protest site in a yellow shirt and blue pants, showed he was walking straight and not even slightly injured. The police has tried to say that he fell down over some stones and hurt himself, a defense argued by his counsels in court.
Explaining the torture, the application reads, "At around 3 pm (on 26 February) the Applicant was taken to a room on the first floor of the police station where around 8 - 10 policemen assaulted the Applicant with batons and lathis for over half an hour. They hit him all over his body including his face and his hands, but particularly targeted his legs. Due to the extreme pain he was suffering, the Applicant lost consciousness in the police station itself, and was taken to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital."
His wife Nargis met him a day later, on 27 February, at Mandoli jail. She was shocked at seeing her husband being brought out to meet her and their daughter on a wheelchair. "I vividly remember everything. He arrived on a wheelchair and had injuries all over.”
Nargis said the wounds she could see were plenty and painful, what she could not see under the clothes she did not want to think about. Interrupting the flow of our call, she suddenly yelled, "Go to that room. Go to that room now and close the gate while you go."
She was speaking to her children, two boys and one girl, who she has been consoling by saying their father will be home soon. "When he went first, I thought he would be back within fourteen days, which is what I told them as well. Then I said he will come before Ramzan. Then before Eid. Then before one of my son's birthday in June," she says again yelling, "Beta jao (Son, go from here.)"
She wants to keep them from hearing about the intricate details of his torture or arrest.
Arguments For and Against Bail
In the arguments to oppose bail on 31 August, the public prosecutor read the statements of three witnesses, including the local head constable.
The statement by the first witness, recorded under Section 161 CrPC, which is a statement to the police, states that Khalid Saifi was on the spot and asking people to not leave the Khureji protest site. That there was sloganeering against the police and because of which people got angry and began to pelt stones at the police. A second witness also said that Saifi asked the people not to leave, raised slogans and that the stone pelting started after his instigation. This witness says he heard a gun shot too.
Saifi’s counsel pointed out that the statements recorded by the same witnesses under Section 164 of the CrPC, which is to a magistrate, were starkly different. In the first case, the witness ended up not naming Saifi at all and in the second, the statements were vague allegations at best.
Regarding the third statement of a head constable, who has said that Khalid Saifi asked the people to throw stones at the police due to which they would run away, Saifi’s counsel Rebecca John pointedly asks where is a simple MLC showing injury to a policeman.
“Do not insult our intelligence,” John said adding that at the highest this would make for a case under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC and not Section 307 (attempt to murder).
Regarding claims of a juvenile in custody saying Saifi gave him a katta, an Indian pistol, John clarified that this disclosure statement was only permissible if it led to recovery of evidence, which it had not. She quoted judgments to prove her point on the zoom call.
2nd Attempt for Bail in Same Case
This is the second time bail was moved for this specific case by Khalid's lawyers, back on 17 July. With the next hearing scheduled for 9 September.
In the case, Saifi has been booked under Section 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing pubic servant from discharging public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt), 307 (attempt to murder), 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment), 34 (common intention) of the IPC and Section 25/27 of the Arms Act.
The first time was on 18 March where the Karkadooma court dismissed the bail plea on the ground that investigation was still pending in the case.
Over a month later, the police filed a charge sheet in the case on 20 April. "The entire charge sheet contains nothing but general, vague, and non-specific allegations against the Applicant, unsupported by any evidence whatsoever. It is submitted that the present case has been filed by the prosecution against the Applicant for sole reason to cover up the allegations of custodial torture," the second bail plea argues.
The lawyers argued that since the investigation was complete, the earlier grounds of pending investigation no longer stand and that the accused must be granted bail under conditions the judge considered correct.
'Believes in Law, Will Come out With Self-Respect Intact'
Khalid who is from UAH, a citizens campaign that has found repeated mention as 'India Against Hate' across police charge sheets, is also the same organisation that Home Minister Amit Shah insinuated was behind the violence in parliament. This accusation was made within two weeks of the Delhi riots, when parliament was in session in March.
Tamanna Pankaj, a UAH member who is also in the team to legally represent him, said that in the various time she has spoken to Khalid he has stressed that she concentrate on the legal process.
She said Saifi has kept his morale high by occupying himself with helping people inside. He helps the police with their documentation work as well as teaches the young boys the namaz there. “He has always been someone who makes friends wherever he goes. He is a survivor,” Tamanna said.
His wife echoes the same, “My husband may have not made a lot of money in life, but he made a lot of great friends. We are a nuclear family and he was the only earning member, with him gone his friends have never let me feel alone. They come and talk to the kids often, on their birthdays or on Eid. I have never felt I did not have money either,” she said with an eagerness of seeing her husband soon.