NEW DELHI — The Delhi High Court on Friday granted bail to Faizan Khan, a 35-year-old mobile SIM salesman, who was booked for murder and terrorism in connection with the Delhi riots.
In his order dated 23 October, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said the Delhi Police case against Khan, invoking India’s anti-terror law, the Unlawful Prevention Activities Act (UAPA), was built on “bald statements,” did not appear to be prima facie true, and did not meet the stringent conditions of denying bail.
“I am of the view that the petitioner deserves bail,” he wrote.
HuffPost India has previously reported that the Delhi Police had booked Khan for terrorism and murder in FIR 59, the conspiracy case of the Delhi riots, even though his only crime may have been to sell a SIM on a fake ID in December to a Jamia Millia Islamia University student who would be arrested six months later in the same case.
While the Delhi Police seems determined to pin the Delhi riots on students and activists who led the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the HuffPost India report pointed out that Khan was from a poor family in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, whose family and friends contended that he did not even know what CAA meant and he had never visited a protest site. Salesman like Khan, they said, were under pressure to meet punishing sales quotas and that is why they resorted to selling SIMs on fake IDs.
Even the Delhi Police chargesheet in FIR 59, first says that Khan acted out of greed, but after collecting statements from a handful unidentified witnesses, proceeds to book him for terrorism.
Khan, who was represented by Salman Khurshid and Azra Rehman, is only the second person to be granted bail in FIR 59 after the police invoked the crimes of terrorism under the UAPA and murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The first was Safoora Zargar who was pregnant when she was incarcerated in April. The 28-year-old Jamia Millia Islamia University student was granted bail on humanitarian grounds in June.
In the chargesheet for FIR 59, the Delhi Police say that Asif Iqbal Tanha, a 24-year-old student of Jamia Millia Islamia University, asked Khan for the SIM in December, and this SIM was picked up by an unidentified by man in January, and then handed to Zargar by another unidentified man at a meeting of the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) —a group that the Delhi Police say was instrumental in orchestrating the riots in February.
Most of the 53 people killed in the Delhi riots were Muslim.
In his order dated 23 October, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait noted that it was not the contention of the Delhi Police that Khan was part of any WhatsApp group which were made to coordinate or organise protests against the CAA.
Justice Kait noted there was no allegation of Khan engaging in any form of terror funding.
Justice Kait noted there was no allegation of him having organised anti-CAA protests.
Justice Kait noted that the transaction relating to the SIM card had allegedly taken place in December 2019, whereas the violence erupted in north east Delhi around 23-25 February.
“It was imperative for the investigation agency to demonstrate that the petitioner had ‘active knowledge’ about the utilisation of the said SIM card. It is not alleged that the petitioner was party to any such conspiracy to organise protests,” Justice Kait wrote.
“There is no proof on record such as CCTV footage, video or chats of petitioner with any of the group except the allegation that he provided SIM on fake ID in December 2019 and taken a small amount of Rs. 200/- for the same. It is not the case of the prosecution that he provided many SIMs and continued to do the same. It is also not the case of prosecution that he was part of any chat-group or part of any group who conspired to commit offence as alleged in the present case,” he wrote.
Justice Kait noted that charge sheet was filed on 6 March, 2020, but Khan was arrested on 29 July, and he had cooperated fully with the police.
Justice Kait noted that Safoora Zargar, who the Delhi Police say eventually used the SIM in planning the protests, was out on bail on humanitarian grounds.
Three others accused in FIR 59 were granted bail before the terrorism and murder charges were invoked in the conspiracy case.
At least 21 persons have been arrested in FIR 59, including Jawaharlal Nehru University Umar Khalid, and fifteen have been charged. Faizan Khan has not yet been charged.