The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said if the probe in the 2020 Delhi riots was taken at "face value" it appeared that there was a "premeditated conspiracy" for causing "disruptive chakka jam and preplanned protests" which was engineered to escalate and culminate in riots in a natural course on specific dates.
The high court said the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, and the 2020 Delhi Riots "prima facie" seem to be orchestrated at the "conspiratorial meetings" held between December 2019 and February 2020.
Some of these meetings were between Umar Khalid with Pinjra Toh members and others, the high court noted. Umar Khalid's name "finds recurring mention from the beginning of the conspiracy till the culmination of the ensuing riots", the division bench observed to underscore the reason to deny bail.
"The protest planned was 'not a typical protest' normal in political culture or democracy but one far more destructive and injurious geared towards extremely grave consequences," the high court observed.
The court's observations came on ex-JNU student Umar Khalid's plea challenging the denial of bail from a lower court. The high court's decision came after hearing all parties over a period of 20 days spread across months.
BOOM highlights the key takeaways from the verdict.
'Active involvement' in anti-CAA protests
The Delhi High Court division bench said witness statements indicated Umar Khalid's presence and active involvement in the protests, engineered against CAA/NRC (National Register of Citizens). Admittedly, Khalid was a member of the WhatsApp group of Muslim students of JNU.
Khalid participated in various meetings; was a member of the DPSG group; referred to then-US President Donald Trump's India visit in his Amravati speech; phone records depict a flurry of calls post-riots with other co-accused, the high court noted listing the reasons for no bail.
"Admittedly these protests metamorphosed into violent riots in February 2020, which began by firstly choking public roads, then violently and designedly attacking policemen and random members of the public, where firearms, acid bottles, stones etc. were used…" the bench said.
Protests atypical, Delhi Riots pre-planned
The high court noted that the anti-CAA/NRC protest were not typical of those in a normal political culture or democracy but one far more destructive and geared towards extremely grave consequences.
The weapons used, the manner of attack and the resultant deaths and destruction caused indicates that the February 2020 riots in Northeast Delhi were "pre-planned", the judgment said.
"The attack on police personnel by women protesters in front only followed by other ordinary people and engulfing the area into a riot is the epitome of such premediated plan and as such the same would prima facie be covered by the definition of 'terrorist act'," it added.
"Acts which threaten the unity and integrity of India and cause friction in communal harmony and create terror in any section of the people, by disturbing the social fabric is also a priori a terrorist act," the high court said in its 52-paged judgment.
Precedent suggests, that "terrorism is an act done with a view to disturb the even tempo of society, create a sense of fear in mind of a section of society, the high court said.
Not just intent, but 'likelihood' to threaten unity a crime under UAPA
The high court pointed out that under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, "it is not just the intent to threaten the unity and integrity, but the likelihood to threaten the same which constitutes as a 'terrorist act'.
"Not just the intent to strike terror but the likelihood to strike terror; not just the use of firearms but the use of any means of whatsoever nature, not just causing but likely to cause not just death but injuries to any person or persons or loss or damage or destruction of property, that constitutes a terrorist act, the high court added.
Moreover, under section 18 of UAPA, not merely a conspiracy to commit a terrorist act but an attempt to commit or advocate the commission or advising it or inciting or directing or knowingly facilitating the commission of a terrorist act is also punishable, it added.
In fact, even acts preparatory to the commission of terrorist acts are punishable under section 18 of UAPA, the high court verdict said.