Lucknow: Kafeel Khan, a former paediatrician at the centre of a controversy at a hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur town, was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday, setting aside the imposition of the National Security Act (NSA) on him. The court, while declaring his detention under NSA as "illegal", ordered his release from jail forthwith.
The relief for Khan came almost seven months after he was arrested by the UP police from Mumbai airport for allegedly making inflammatory remarks during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Aligarh Muslim University on December 12, 2019.
The judgment delivered by a bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh said the speech for which he was detained “prima facie does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence”.
WHAT DID THE COURT SAY IN ITS ORDER?
Dropping the imposition of NSA that is enacted for preventive detention of Khan, the Allahabad HC said: "It also nowhere threatens peace and tranquillity of the city of Aligarh. The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence," the HC observed.
While examining the speech given by Khan at Aligarh Muslim University and also quoting the entire speech in its order, the court dismissed the state's allegation that it was intended to promote violence or threatened Aligarh's peace.
The court even said the Aligarh district magistrate who passed the detention order “had selective reading and selective mention for few phrases from the speech ignoring its true intent”.
It added that “there is a serious lack of objective material on record as may have given rise to a valid subjective satisfaction with the detaining authority to preventively detain the detenue (Khan)”.
The High Court also took note that Khan had not been given a proper opportunity to given a representation against his detention. In this regard, it was found that neither was Khan given a transcript of the speech on the basis of which he was detained nor was he given a device to play a CD of the speech.
“Such non-supply of material violates a precious fundamental right of a detenue enshrined under Article 22 of the Constitution. On this count also the detention of Dr. Kafeel Khan deserves to be set aside”, the Court said.
Moreover, the bench found that Khan was not served the orders extending his detention either. The court, therefore, proceeded to rule that both Khan’s detention and the extension of this detention was unsustainable in law.
Khan’s mother had challenged his detention under the NSA as illegal before the Allahabad High Court and had filed a habeas corpus petition for his release.
LONG BATTLE FOR JUSTICE
Khan’s family expressed their satisfaction over Tuesday's Allahabad High Court verdict that quashed the NSA charges against the doctor, ordering his release immediately.
His elder brother Adeel Ahmad Khan told NewsClick: "Indeed, it’s great news for entire family and moment of relief for us which we have been facing for the past several months. I don’t have words to express our gratitude to the lakhs of people who had prayed for us.
"We first went to the Supreme Court on February 28 and a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde on March 18 had ordered that the same writ petition we had filed in SC will be forwarded to the Allahabad High Court and no extra papers/documents need to submit in HC. But ironically, the documents were missing and till now the court did not get the original documents sent by CJI," Adeel said, adding that his mother burst into tears after Tuesday’s judgment.
Speaking to NewsClick, Shabista Khan, wife of Kafeel Khan said: "Today is my birthday and this is the best birthday gift ever for me. I am thankful to both Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court.”
Talking about her husband’s imprisonment, Shabista said: "Ever since my husband was in jail, I had not shared anything with my daughter Zabreen who turned four. I told her that her father was working in some medical camps outside the city. One can imagine how difficult it was to go through this trauma." She said her husband was punished repeatedly for a crime that he never committed. "We forgot happiness but I am excited that my kids will see their father after a long time," she added.
Moin Khan, Khan’s childhood friend, said: "Since Khan was suspended from BRD Hospital, he was relentlessly working for the social cause and distributing free medicines to needy people across the country; whether it was Assam floods or encephalitis deaths in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. How can such person be a threat to the nation?"
Khan was arrested by the UP Special Task Force (STF) from Mumbai on January 29 this year in connection with a speech that he had delivered during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest near the iconic Bab-e- Syed Gate outside AMU in front of more than 600 students. He was charged with allegedly promoting enmity between different religions.
A case was registered against Khan at the Civil Lines police station in Aligarh. After his arrest, he was brought to Aligarh and then immediately shifted to the district jail in neighbouring Mathura.
After his arrest, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against Khan on January 30 under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion). The FIR alleged that his speech was trying to “disrupt the harmony between the communities”, and said it was “also likely to create a law and order situation”.
However, Khan was granted bail on February 10 and was to be released on February 14 (Friday) from the Mathura jail, but hours before that the Uttar Pradesh police slapped the stringent National Security Act (NSA) on him citing an alleged inflammatory speech made by him on December 12 in AMU.
Kafeel Khan had come under the spotlight in August 2017 when several children died at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, where he worked as a paediatrician. At that time, the doctor had alleged institutional failure for the deaths of the children. He subsequently faced a departmental probe that gave him a clean chit, yet he was not reinstated. Khan had alleged political vendetta against him.
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