Lucknow: In a major setback to the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government, the Allahabad High Court set aside criminal proceedings against suspended paediatrician Kafeel Khan on Thursday. The case pertained to Khan allegedly delivering an inflammatory speech during protests against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Aligarh Muslim University in 2019.
The court set aside the chargesheet and its cognisance order, observing that before filling the chargesheet, concerned police authorities had not taken requisite sanction from the Centre or the state government or the district magistrate under Section 196 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) as required in such cases (offences pertaining to inflammatory speech).
However, while issuing the judgment, Justice Gautam Chaudhary made it clear that the chargesheet and its cognisance order may be taken up by the court after the mandatory sanction granted under the section from the Centre or the state government or the district magistrate.
According to Section 195 (a) of the CrPC, no court shall take cognisance of any offence under section 153A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) expect with the previous sanction of the Centre or the state government or the district magistrate.
Earlier, an First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against Khan in this connection under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudice to national integration), 505 (2) (statement creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes) and 109 (abetment of offence) of IPC after his speech at AMU campus on December 12, 2019 during a gathering against the CAA/NRC.
He was arrested by the UP special task force (STF) from Mumbai airport on January 29 and sent to jail where he was behind the bars for almost seven-and-half-months. However, Khan was granted bail on February 10 and was to be released on February 14 from Mathura Jail. However, a day prior (February 13) the Uttar Pradesh police slapped the stringent National Security Act (NSA)
on him citing the alleged inflammatory speech.
However, setting aside the NSA imposition on Khan, the Allahabad High Court on September 1, 2020, had ruled that his detention under the Act was “illegal", ordering his release from jail forthwith. The Allahabad HC had said: "It also nowhere threatens peace and tranquility of the city Aligarh. The address gives a call for national integrity and unify among thr citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence."
On December 12, the UP government filed an appeal against the HC's decision. On December 17, the Supreme Court had refused to interfere with the HC order dismissing charges filed against Khan under the NSA. The SC has dismissed the appeal moved by the UP government against the HC.
Reacting to the judgment, Khan thanked the people and the judicial system. “Though it's a big relief for me and my family, but unless and until I don’t get my job at BRD back, things won’t change. The job is necessary for my livelihood. My mother keeps asking me when I will get my job back and I couldn’t to respond her,” he told Newsclick, adding: "Who will return the eight months that I lost?"
“The Yogi Adityanath government kept me in jail for almost 500 days over four years – first nine months for the BRD oxygen tragedy in 2017; nearly 35 days in Bahraich and seven and a half months in Mathura Jail for the anti-CAA protest. This is what the state government has given to an honest and ordinary doctor who wants to serve humanity. Will it return the 500 days I stayed apart from my daughter and family," asked Khan, adding that the "most painful part" of the period was that he missed his children growing up and the milestones in their lives.
Khan and his family has been waiting for the upcoming judgment which is set be delivered on August 31 by Allahabad HC in connection with the BRD oxygen tragedy.
Accusing the government and state police of "high-handedness", Khan said: "The Aligarh DM and SSP might learn something from this judgment and refrain from fabricating innocent people under fake cases under the influence of political power."
Kafeel Khan had come under the spotlight four years ago when he was arrested for his alleged role in the deaths of 60 children within a week at Baba Raghav Das Medical College (BRD), Gorakhpur in August 2017 due to shortage of Oxygen in the children’s ward. Close to two years later, a state government probe cleared Khan of all major charges.