Mere membership of WhatsApp group can’t make Khalid criminally liable, HC told

Khalid’s counsel said out of five WhatsApp groups cited by the prosecution, he was a member of two groups in which also he remained silent and only posted four messages in one of the groups

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Former JNU student Umar Khalid, arrested in a UAPA case related to the alleged conspiracy behind the riots here in February 2020, Thursday told the Delhi High Court that mere membership of a WhatsApp group cannot make him criminally liable when nothing objectionable has been attributed to him.

“Is it illegal to be a member of a WhatsApp group unless you commit any illegality?, his counsel asked before a bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar which was hearing a plea by Khalid who has challenged a trial court’s March 24 order dismissing his bail application in the case.

Khalid’s counsel said out of five WhatsApp groups cited by the prosecution, he was a member of two groups in which also he remained silent and only posted four messages in one of the groups.

“The fact that I was part of two WhatsApp groups, out of five cited against me in which I remained silent, cannot make me criminally liable. I am not saying there was anything criminal in those groups,” he argued.

Also Read: And she waits for Umar Khalid

He further said, “I am not an administrator, I am merely a member of the group. Admins are someone else. There was nothing else objectionable attributed to me.

If someone else has said something, that cannot be put at my door.”

The counsel said the mere membership of a WhatsApp group has been held as an incident of conspiracy or illegality against Khalid.

As the counsel for Khalid concluded his submissions, the court listed the matter for hearing arguments of the public prosecutor on August 1.

The court also asked Khalid’s counsel to file written submissions.

When the court asked what were the allegations placed at Khalid’s door, the counsel said, “Silent whisper. There is no direct act attributed to me, except for the speech.”

The high court had earlier questioned Khalid for using certain objectionable words against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech in Amravati on February 21, 2020.

Khalid was arrested on September 13, 2020, and has been in custody since then.

Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and several others have been booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the “masterminds” of the February 2020 riots, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

The Delhi Police has opposed the bail plea, saying the narratives sought to be created by Khalid cannot be looked into as his defence at this stage and the trial court refused to release him by a well-reasoned order which suffers from no illegality.

Besides Khalid, activist Khalid Saifi, 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.

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