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Delhi Riots: Umar Khalid Says Media's Prejudiced Opinion Causing Distress, Affecting Right to Fair Trial

File image of former JNU student leader Umar Khalid.

File image of former JNU student leader Umar Khalid.

The submissions were made before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Dinesh Kumar during the hearing on a plea moved by Khalid, in which he alleged a vicious media trial by leaking of the supplementary charge sheet filed against him even before the court took cognisance.

Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid alleged before a court here on Thursday there was a deliberate design by the media and a concerted effort to prejudice opinion against him in a north-east Delhi riots case. The submissions were made before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Dinesh Kumar during the hearing on a plea moved by Khalid, in which he alleged a vicious media trial by leaking of the supplementary charge sheet filed against him even before the court took cognisance.

Khalid said the alleged adversarial media reports, which painted him as guilty, were continuing and caused him deep distress. The adversarial media reports, painting me not only as an accused but almost as a guilty have continued. I want to point it out to you as it is causing me deep distress and clearly affecting my right to a fair trial. The fact that it is continuing even after me pointing it out to you, I see it as a deliberate design, he alleged.

He further claimed that extracts from his alleged disclosure statement, which hold no value in the court of law, have been made into headlines. He pointed out that the alleged disclosure statement have refused to sign written below his name.

Referring to a media report which allegedly quoted the court saying that Khalid and co-accused Tahir Hussain conspired together, he claimed the media was propagating as if the court had said it when it had simply taken cognisance of the charge sheet. You can imagine that the police can write anything in a document which I have refused to sign. On one hand of course there is a deliberate design by the media but this thing of leaking of the charge sheet even before the court took its cognisance officially, I see it as a concerted effort to sort of prejudice opinion against me and affect my right to a fair trial, Khalid alleged.

To this the judge told him he can file a separate complaint felt there was an alleged vendetta going on against him. Khalid also submitted that he wanted to go through the photographs and the video footage filed as part of the charge sheet in jail and asked to be provided the same.

To this the court directed the investigating officer to provide a pen drive containing the photographs and the video footage to the concerned Jail Superintendent who should allow to watch the contents on a computer screen available in prison. The court put up the matter for further hearing on January 19.

It had earlier sought reply from the police as to how the copy of a supplementary charge sheet, filed against Khalid in the case related to riots in Khajuri Khas area, was allegedly leaked to the media, even before the accused or his counsel got it. Khalid has alleged in his plea that the allegations in the charge sheet and its dissemination by the media were allegedly false and malicious and compromised his right to a fair trial.

When I go the charge sheet, it is written below my so-called disclosure statement 'refused to sign'. Despite that it is leaked and then it is reported like this... This is not the first time. It has happened before too. I don't expect this to be the last time also on the part of the police. This has been done in other cases too. My only hope rests with you to ensure that these kinds of practices don't happen again. Khalid had told the judge.

His plea has claimed that it was amply evident from several news reports, both print and television, that the charge sheet has been leaked to the media and certain sections have been citing purported segments to allegedly convey that he has inter alia admitted to having conspired to fuel the riots and to having involved children and women for organising 'chakka jams'. The application has further said that though Khalid had told the court that he had not signed any document or statement during his police custody in the case, a section of the media was reporting from his alleged disclosure statement that he had allegedly accepted that he conspired to fuel the riots.

None of the news reports include any characterisation to the effect that the contents of the charge sheet are mere allegations at this stage that they are yet to be provided beyond reasonable doubt, it had stated. It had said there was no clarification to the effect that disclosure statements made whilst in police custody are wholly inadmissible in evidence and have no basis in law.

As such, the purported allegation in the charge sheet to the effect that the accused has admitted to his involvement in the north east Delhi riots, as currently being disseminated by certain sections of the media, is nothing short of vilification campaign based on wholly false and malicious assertions aimed at eroding the accused's right to a fair trial, it claimed. Communal violence had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 last year after clashes between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.


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