In a strongly worded plea moved by UAPA accused Umar Khalid’s counsels, they argued that the selective quoting of the ‘conspiracy’ supplementary charge sheet leaked to the press, when they themselves do not have a copy of the charge sheet yet, is leading to a media trial aimed at ‘damaging Umar Khalid’s reputation and destroying the presumption of innocence that he is entitled to’.
A day after the application was moved, Karkardooma court judge Amitabh Rawat ordered for a soft copy of the charge sheet to be provided to his counsels on 28 November.
In the previous hearing on 24 November, the court had said that the accused would only get a copy of the supplementary charge sheet on 2 December. In the interim, several media houses reported on allegations against Khalid from this charge sheet. Khalid’s lawyers Trideep Pais, Sanya Kumar and Rakshanda Deka pointed out why this is problematic, while the ‘public prosecutor denied any allegations and insinuations against the investigative agency’.
The order read: Without going into the allegations/counter allegations, after hearing the arguments heard today, the court feels that it would be in the fitness of things to allow the present application in so far as the prayer of providing the soft copy of the charge sheet in the form of a pen drive, is concerned.
What Umar Khalid’s Application Said
In a thirty seven-page application moved by Umar Khalid’s lawyers, they made a case to get copy of the charge sheet as the media was reporting on it. Some extracts from the application can be read here:
- “Such deliberate and unfair targeting of the Applicant/Accused by selectively quoting the chargesheet as “clinching proof”, “clinching evidence” without sufficient and substantial characterization to the effect that the contents of the chargesheet are mere allegations at this stage that are yet to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.”
- “Using pejorative headlines and terms like “the tukde chargesheet” “endgame tukde gang” “tukde plot completely exposed”, “the tukde apologists”; and referring to the Applicant/Accused, inter alia, as the “posterboy of left’s intolerance brigade” and the “kingpin of riots”, is aimed at damaging his reputation and destroying the presumption of innocence that he is entitled to.
- Talking about how the media has the charge sheet and Khalid’s counsels and he do not, the application also attached news reports. The application reads:
“It is unequivocally clear from the media coverage, annexed hereto, whereby portions of the chargesheet have been extracted and screenshots of the chargesheet have been displayed/reproduced on national television by several news agencies.”
- “In several instances, this access to the chargesheet has been used to unfairly target the Applicant/Accused and run a vilification campaign against him, at a time, where in addition to being behind bars and hence, not in a position to issue clarifications or guard himself against unfair publicity, he does not even have access to the very chargesheet to which he is entitled by law.”
- “However, the vilification campaign being run against the Applicant/Accused is a textbook example of the freedom of the press clashing with the fundamental right of the Applicant/Accused under Article 21 of the Constitution to privacy, dignity and the right to fair trial.”
- “The constant reiteration of these charges in the media and the media frenzy creates a public opinion where an accused is treated as guilty even before the trial has begun and where an acquittal on the facts of the case would attract skepticism. In effect, the Applicant/Accused herein is being subjected to a media trial.”
- “The Applicant/Accused beseeches this Hon’ble Court to take note of the virulence with which he is being portrayed in the media at a time that he is in an extremely vulnerable position and unable to counter the false narrative by virtue of not even having access to the chargesheet.”