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Both Republic TV and News18 said they took the allegedly inflammatory speech of Umar Khalid from BJP’s IT cell chief, Amit Malviya.

Student activist Umar Khalid holding a mic and giving a speech
news Law Tuesday, August 24, 2021 - 20:14

Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid, arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the northeast Delhi riots conspiracy case, called it a "cooked up" case. On Monday, August 23, he told a Delhi court that there were various contradictions in the claims of the Delhi police. Umar Khalid, along with several others, has been booked under the stringent anti-terror law UAPA. They are accused of being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 violence, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured. He has sought bail in the case.

Trideep Pais, Khalid's lawyer, told Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat that the first information report (FIR) was cooked up and unnecessary, and was used selectively to target and frame them. The counsel pointed to two contradictions in Delhi Police's claims. First, he showed the court a 21-minute video clip of Khalid's speech in Maharashtra from February 17, 2020, which the prosecution had allegedly labelled inflammatory. He also argued that the video in which Khalid's speech was alleged to be inflammatory was taken by Republic TV from BJP leader Amit Malviya’s tweet, and that the channel had not even done due diligence of the footage.

According to Live Law, reading from a letter, Pais said that Umar Khalid had been “framed by the press,” which left out other parts of his speech. Pais pointed out that then the police sent a notice asking for the “raw footage” of the speech recorded on the spot. “Please see these are journalists who never go on the ground to see speech but are very happy to show it. They never went there. The reply says they don't have the raw footage and that the video was obtained from a tweet done by a member of BJP,” he said.

Republic TV’s reply to the notice seeking Khalid’s speech footage, which Pais read out in the court, said, “The footage was not recorded by our cameraperson. It was tweeted by Mr Amit Malviya…” News18 also responded, stating that they took the footage from Amit Malviya.

“Your material is a YouTube video which is copied from a tweet. The journalist did not even have the responsibility to go there. It's not a journalistic ethic. This is a death of journalism,” Pais argued. The video full speech was subsequently only acquired on July 6, which “was also not placed.” After the riots in Delhi, 750 FIRs were registered on July 28. “On March 6, when you said he gave speeches, what did you have? You had a speech that was copied from a tweet and that story came in July; by the time, you had arrested 18 persons,” Pais said. The FIR in the case was registered on March 6, 2020.

The lawyer later also showed the full video of Khalid’s speech, apprising the court that his client did not give any call for violence through the speech and in fact gave “a message of unity” to the people based on Gandhi ji. “It was termed as terror. Content is not seditious. He is talking about democratic power. He referred to Gandhi,” Pais added.

Umar Khalid’s counsel also argued that as per the police case, the JNU student conspired with other accused on January 8 to cause riots during former US President Donald Trump's visit. However, the news about his visit was announced only in February.

“These are the kind of lies they are peddling. This is a joke. This FIR is a cooked-up theory. Is it that easy to prosecute people? Do you have no responsibility as a prosecution?” Pais said.

The Delhi Police had recently said that the bail plea has no merit and that it will demonstrate the prima facie case against him before the court by referring to the charge sheet filed in the case.

In April, the former JNU student was granted bail in one of the riot cases. The court while granting him bail noted that he was not physically present at the scene of the crime on the date of the incident. Besides him, JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain and several others have also been booked under the stringent law in the case.

(With PTI input)

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