Umar Khalid: Despite Court Taking Cognisance, Media Trial Goes On

Khalid moved court to find out how Delhi riots chargesheets are being leaked to media before accused gets a copy.

Updated
India
4 min read
This is the second time Umar Khalid and his lawyers have moved court complaining of a leak of information and media trial.
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In the latest hearing on Umar Khalid’s pleas to find out how the charge sheets with allegations linking him to the Delhi riots are being leaked, the UAPA accused and former JNU student told court that despite the court taking cognisance of the matter the media trial against him continues.

In the hearing on 14 January, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, of Karkardooma Courts in North East District, Dinesh Kumar took note of what Umar Khalid said and fixed the next date of the hearing for 19 January.

In the last hearing on 7 January, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had sought a reply on the ‘leak’ of the charge sheet against Khalid to the media by Delhi Police. They were asked to file their reply by 14 January. Umar’s counsel, Rakshanda Deka told court on Thursday that she needed some time to go through the documents submitted by the police.

The judge asked Umar to be unmuted during the proceedings and asked if he wished to say anything.

Khalid Tells Court, ‘Media Trial Continues, Seems to be Deliberate Design’

Khalid said the adversarial media reports have declared him not only as guilty but as the one who committed the crime. “This has continued to cause me distress and compromises my chances for a fair trial. This has continued despite me bringing it up in your court. Even on the day the court took cognisance of the matter, the next day a prominent daily published a news article on their front page with a headline that said ‘Umar Khalid, Tahir conspired on the riots’. This is despite the fact that my disclosure reads ‘refused to sign’, which means that the police can write anything on such a document. This includes extracts from my statements, which anyway do not have any value in courts, including from mine, Tahir Hussain or Khalid Saifi’s statements.”

It is important to understand that under Section 25 of the Evidence Act, disclosure statements, which are taken under Section 161 of CrPC, hold zero value until they lead to recovery of evidence. These are statements that are made to the police and not in front of a magistrate, which are made under Section 164 of CrPC and hold during the trial.

The judge intervened and said that while they have seized the matter, at this stage he cannot make any comment. He also asked Umar to reach out to his lawyer and add the respective media reports to the application, if he so wished.

“There seems to be a deliberate design to malign me. This has happened many times, that one newspaper writes something and the next day it is word to word the same in another newspaper,” Khalid continued.

Kumar said Umar had two options to deal with the situation, “If you feel aggrieved, there are two ways of dealing with it. One involves your counsel moving applications, which has been done and I will pass legal orders in due time. If you think there is an agenda or vendetta to go against you, you can file separate complaints. I can only issue directions. If there is some malice you want to point out, then you can do that separately.”

What is This Particular FIR About?

This application is being raised specifically with regard to the leak of the supplementary charge sheet under FIR 101, that investigates the violence in the Khajuri Khas area of northeast Delhi, and is being investigated by Delhi Police Crime Branch.

The application was formally moved on 7 January and brought up in court on 5 January, where Khalid had told the leak of charges, without giving him or his counsels a right of response, is affecting his right to trial. He had said:

“I am saying with absolute dismay that this pattern of media reporting on the charge sheet before the accused get a copy of it, is prejudicial to the trial. Please ask the prosecution and the investigating officer how is it that the media is getting a copy of the charge sheet before the accused is. The media says that in my confessional statements (disclosure statements) I have admitted to my role in the riots, how does that make sense when I gave it in writing that I had not signed any statement while in police custody on 4 October. I am well aware that these confessional statements are not admissible in court, but there is an obvious pattern of selected disclosure statements being leaked, so keeping that in mind I request you ask the Investigating Officer how this is being leaked again and again. This is affecting my right to a free and fair trial.”

The full story from 5 January can be read here.

This is the second time Umar and his lawyers are moving such an application.

The last time this happened was on 28 November when they moved court under FIR 59 where the supplementary charge sheet, that outlined the alleged role of Khalid, was reported on by several sections of the media. Unable to respond to the allegations by the Delhi Police, in the absence of the charge sheet, his counsels told the court on that he was being subjected to a media trial even then.

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