The charges against former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid and United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi pertained to the "umbrella conspiracy" or the larger conspiracy of the 2020 northeast Delhi riots, a court Delhi has said while discharging them in a case linked to the riots.
The FIR in the case was registered on the basis of the statement of Constable Sangram Singh who said a riotous mob had pelted stones on Main Karawal Nagar Road, besides setting ablaze several vehicles in a nearby parking lot on February 24, 2020.
The court framed charges against Aam Aadmi Party leader Tahir Hussain and 10 others in the case.
"As far as accused Khalid Saifi and Umar Khalid are concerned, I find that allegations made against them relate to umbrella conspiracy, rather than conspiracy peculiar to the incident investigated in this case," Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala said in an order passed on Saturday.
"Since, umbrella conspiracy i.e, larger conspiracy to incite riots in Delhi is already the subject matter of consideration in FIR (No.) 59/2020… therefore, these two accused are entitled for discharge in the present case," the judge said in the order, uploaded on the court website on Monday.
The Crime Branch is investigating the conspiracy behind the start of riots in this FIR.
The Delhi Police arrested Umar Khalid, a former student leader of the JNU, in September 2020 in connection with the riots.
Explaining the concept of umbrella conspiracy, the court said it was the larger conspiracy subsuming several small conspiracies hatched under it.
"The objective of umbrella conspiracy may be wider than the objective of smaller conspiracy and planning to ignite a communal riot at a large level and taking steps for the prosecution of such plan, could be umbrella conspiracy and participants to this conspiracy may or may not be part of each smaller conspiracies and vice versa,” the court said.
It said that when in pursuance to the objective of the larger conspiracy, smaller plans are made and executed to cause an incident of rioting at a particular place, it becomes a case of a smaller conspiracy under an umbrella conspiracy.
The court also discharged Tariq Moin Rizvi, Jagar Khan and Mohd. Illiyas, saying “the required degree of suspicion for the offence under section 212 (harbouring offender) of the Indian Penal Code is not made out against them.”
The court, meanwhile, framed charges against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Tahir Hussain and 10 others, saying from the statements of witnesses, the presence of all accused persons in the mob is “well reflected.”
"It is also well apparent that this mob had assembled, out of deliberation in the house of accused Tahir Hussain,” the court said.
Rejecting the argument of Hussain that he was a victim, the court said the video clips collected by the investigating officer did not show any “adversity” between Hussain and other persons present on his terrace.
“The conduct of accused Tahir Hussain as appearing in these video clips is not consistent with such a plea of being a victim,” the court said.
The court noted some people in the mob were equipped with firing weapons, while some others arranged petrol bombs and stones were stored in sacks.
"Such preparations being made and this house being used as a base, seen along with the conduct of the members of this mob, show that they were acting out of a prior meeting of their mind and with a clear-cut objective in mind, to harm Hindus in every possible manner," the court said.
The court further said it is not necessary that each of the accused persons had to physically go to the parking lot for achieving the mob's common object.
"Participation and being a member of this mob during the alleged act is sufficient to make all named accused persons liable for the deeds of this mob,” the court said.
The absence of a direct video of the incident and not mentioning the names of the accused in the FIR along with the non-recovery of the actual weapon of the offence and looted materials or cash did not make the case of prosecution unbelievable as the significance of such omissions, depended upon facts of each case and that too at the final stage of the case, the court said.
"All accused are liable to be tried for hatching a criminal conspiracy to indulge in riot and to harm properties of Hindus and consequent to such conspiracy attacking the property (parking lot)...assaulting the persons from Hindu community, who were present in that building and vandalising as well as setting on fire the parked vehicles, the covered parking place and upper floor with the food items,” the court said.
All accused persons also “indulged into targeting Hindus and their such acts were apparently prejudicial to the harmony between communities of Muslims and Hindus and they did disturb the public tranquillity through their actions,” the court added.
The court directed charges to be framed against the accused persons under various sections of the IPC, including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 147 (rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 395 (dacoity), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.) and 454 (house-trespass) of the IPC.