Indian international student Vishal Jood has been ordered to be released on 15th October 2021.
Appearing before Magistrate David Price at Parramatta Local Court today, the NSW’s Department of Public Prosecutor withdrew eight charges. Following which Vishal pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to 3 minor charges of altercation which were reported to have happened on 16 September 2020 and 14 February 2021.
Police had initially laid 10 charges against Vishal arising out of four separate incidents. Police had requested the DPP to prosecute the matter before a District Court jury. However, the DPP elected for the matter to remain in the Local Court.
In court today morning Vishal’s lawyer played video pieces of evidence to prove that Vishal was provoked by a group of individuals as these incidences happened.
“A police request to lay a further charge under section 93Z of the Crimes Act of publicly threatening or inciting violence on grounds of religion was not sanctioned by the DPP.”
Vishal will serve a total sentence of 6 months for all three offences. Since he has been in custody since 16 April 2021, his sentence will be back-dated to that date.
14 February 2021 incident
Vishal’s counsel played a video to the court of a Farmers Rally at Quakers Hill in Sydney in December 2020. The video showed Vishal unfurling the Tiranga, following which over a dozen goons surrounded him, pushed and dragged him and assaulted him repeatedly. The crowd was chanting “Modi kutta, Modi kutta.”
The court heard that following this rally, Vishal received numerous threats on social media from anti-India elements.
On 14 February 2021, Vishal attended the Tiranga car rally, his counsel told the court. At the end of the rally, a dozen or so of the organisers (including women) were having refreshments at Jones Park, Parramatta at about 4:30 pm.
The organisers of the rally were approached by a group of over 100 Indian males. They were swearing and shouting slogans such as “Modi Murdabad.”
The court was told the group surrounded the rally organisers and demanded the names and car registration numbers of the “boys” who had been at the Tiranga rally. After making threats, the group left.
Evidence from another witness, who was present at Wigram Street, Harris Park between 5 pm and 7 pm on that day, was tendered to the court. His evidence was that he observed three groups of Indian males loitering in the area. Some were armed with weapons. Photos of two of the men armed with golf clubs were presented to the court.
The witness observed a number of cars driving slowly around the area and its occupants speaking to the groups of men. He then saw some of the men yelling and running in the middle of Wigram Street, armed with rod-like weapons.
At some point, a large group marched along Wigram Street chanting anti-India slogans such as “Modi Kutta hae.”
Vishal’s case was that at approximately 7 pm, he was standing on Wigram Street when he heard one of the car” occupant’s yelling, “There’s Rahul Jood.”
Several people came out of one of the cars. One of them ran towards Vishal armed with a baseball bat. Vishal took the bat off him and smashed a window of the nearest car with it, to scare away his attackers.
He pleaded guilty to being armed with a weapon (a baseball bat) with intent to commit an indictable offence and damaging property (the car window).
The learned magistrate found that these offences were below the medium range of objective seriousness.
16 September 2020 incident
Vishal pleaded guilty to one charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in the company as to this incident.
The Khalistani/Sikh angle
A number of documents were tendered to the court by Vishal’s counsel relating to
the Khalistan movement and the Sikh religion, including:
- A statement from a historian tracing the origins of the Sikh religion and the Khalistan movement as well as the acts of terror carried out by Khalistanis.
- A reference from a Sikh Indian-based journalist in Haryana confirming the respect for Sikhs in that state by Hindus, including Vishal’s family.
- References from two of Vishal’s Sikh friends in Sydney confirming that he has never disrespected the Sikh religion.
The DPP submitted that the 16 September 2020 offence was motivated by hatred for or prejudice against a group of people to which the offender believed the victim belonged (an aggravating factor under s 21A(2(h) of the Crimes Act):
Jood’s counsel pointed out that the Khalistani movement was not synonymous with the Sikh religion. He informed the court that Hindus and Sikhs had been living in harmony in India for the last 500 years.
The Khalistan movement is not a religious movement. Further, on the evidence before the court, Vishal’s conduct could simply not have been motivated by a prejudice against or hatred for Sikhs.
The learned magistrate did not accept that Vishal’s conduct was motivated by animosity towards Sikhs.
- Found that Vishal had very good prospects of rehabilitation.
- Found that Vishal had a great deal to offer to the community.
Counselled Vishal that “people will aggravate you,” but that he should resist the temptation to react in a violent manner.
Misleading website reports
Various reports from websites containing misleading reports about Vishal’s case were provided by his barrister to the court.
Reports floating on various dubious social media sites that Vishal had pleaded guilty to 10 charges and that he had admitted to targeting Sikhs are patently false.
Among the reports tendered, was a report by one “Vivek” which contained a photo of court 1.1 at Parramatta Local Court. It is understood that the publication was by one Vivek Kumar Asri.
Vishal’s counsel pointed out that it was a criminal offence to take photos inside a courtroom. Vivek, who was present in court, was warned by the magistrate to not take any further photos or make any recording. Vivek promised the court that he would not re-offend.
As for the claim by one website that it had received information about Vishal’s case from “…sources close to the case…” on 1 September 2021, the DPP, Parramatta Local Court and the NSW Police have each told Vishal’s solicitors that none of them had released any information about the case. The claim, therefore, appears to be a fabrication.
Vishal was represented by Mr Amendra Singh of counsel instructed by Opal Legal.