On Friday, 23 October, the Karkardooma court ordered that the judicial custody of Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam, accused of conspiring to organise the Delhi riots in February this year, has been extended till 20 November.
In the meanwhile, the court has directed the superintendent of Tihar Jail, where both are lodged, to ensure that the jail ensures they are allowed out of their cells as per the rules.
On Thursday, Khalid appearing before the court via video conferencing, had told the court that Tihar jail authorities are keeping him under solitary confinement and he is not being allowed to talk to anyone or step out of his cell. Khalid stated that such an action was in violation of the court's orders.
The judge did not take up the matter in detail, but asked for the superintendent to be present at the hearing on Friday to explain why this was happening.
On Friday, Khalid said that since Thursday’s hearing, things have been better, adding that the superintendent went to him and and took him out. The superintendent did try to argue that there had in fact been no undue restriction on Khalid’s movements, but judge Amitabh Rawat gave this argument short shrift, and directed the superintendent to ensure Khalid was allowed out during the regular timings of sunrise to 12 noon, and 3 pm to sunset, subject only to reasonable considerations of safety.
The superintendent also undertook to ensure that any books and warm clothes sent for Khalid to the jail would be provided to him.
Later in the hearing, JNU student Sharjeel Imam also alleged that he was not being allowed to move freely. The judge asked his lawyer to file an application, and orally asked the superintendent to make sure the rules were being followed.
The police had asked for 30-day extension to the judicial custody of the two, arguing their continued remand was necessary to ensure the investigation could continue, by ensuring their presence.
Khalid’s lawyer Trideep Pais contested the remand application, arguing that the police had failed to provide any grounds for extension of custody. He pointed out that Khalid had cooperated with the investigation, even travelling back to Delhi from Calcutta and Rajasthan at various points of time to answer the police’s questions. Pais argued that the Delhi Police had all the material relevant to the investigation with them, and hence there was no need for him to remain in custody for the investigation.
Furthermore, he noted that the application for extension of remand contained entire segments copy-pasted from previous remand applications on 14 and 24 September, including with the same typographical errors. This showed the request was “mechanical and displays no application of mind”, he argued.
Advocate Surabhi Dhar, appearing for Sharjeel Imam, noted these arguments, and also pointed out that when it came to her client, there was no reason for his custody to continue in this particular case, as he was already in custody in a separate case at the time he is alleged to have committed an offence here.
She also asked the judge to direct that her requests for meeting her client by VC were responded to, as there had been problems with this till now, including a lack of response for the last four days. This had led to a confusion in the court where she was not aware of some of the problems her client was facing. Imam noted that at the last meeting he had been allowed with her, his microphone had not worked.
The superintendent assured the court that they would look into this an make sure no such problems came up. Imam’s lawyer said she would file necessary applications to address this issue as well.
A Delhi court on 24 September had sent Khalid to judicial custody till 22 October in connection with his alleged role in the northeast Delhi riots. Khalid has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by Special Cell of the Delhi Police.
The court had on 17 October directed the Tihar Jail Superintendent to provide adequate and security in judicial custody.
But Khalid said 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?”
Following Khalid’s statements, ASJ Rawat asked the superintendent to appear before the court on Friday.
“We will ask the Jail Superintendent to be present tomorrow. No additional or junior,” Judge Rawat said, Bar and Bench reported.
Khalid had also complained of being kept on mute while the case was heard by the jail staff, after which the court called the jail staff and said: “When an undertrial expresses a grievance, it does not mean he has to be punished.”
(With inputs from PTI, Bar and Bench)
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