Allahabad: Dr Kafeel Khan was released from Mathura jail after the Allahabad high court on Tuesday quashed his detention under the National Security Act and ordered his immediate release, saying his speech at the Aligarh Muslim University didn’t promote hatred or violence and gave a call for national integrity.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh said the Aligarh district magistrate, who passed the order for Khan’s detention, did a “selective reading” of his speech, “ignoring its true intent”.
Khan’s lawyer Irfan Ghazi told PTI, “Mathura jail administration informed at around 11:00 pm that Dr Kafeel will be released, and at around midnight, he was released”.
The high court allowed the writ petition filed by Khan’s mother Nuzhat Parveen and said the detention order by the district magistrate was illegal.
The petition argued that Khan was granted bail in February by a competent court and he was supposed to release on bail. However, he was not released for four days and the National Security Act (NSA) was subsequently invoked against him. Hence, his detention was illegal.
Khan was in jail since January after he delivered the allegedly provocative speech at AMU during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in December last year. He was lodged in Mathura jail.
‘Could frame me in another case’
Speaking after his release, Khan said the Uttar Pradesh government, instead of observing ‘Raj Dharma’, was indulging in baal hatth or childlike-stubbornness and could frame him in another case.
Speaking to PTI after his release, Khan thanked the court. “I will always remain thankful to all my well-wishers, who raised their voice for my release. The administration was not ready for release, but because of the prayers of people, I have been released.”
“In Ramayana, Maharshi Valmiki had said that the Raja (king) should act for ‘Raj Dharma’. In UP the ‘Raja’ is not doing ‘Raj Dharma’ but is doing baal hatth,” Khan said.
He also said he was apprehensive that the government can frame him in any other case, and claimed that he and his family had to face many hardships as the state government was “after” him because of the oxygen shortage issue in BRD Medical College.
Kafeel Khan had hit the headlines for the first time in 2017 after the deaths of several kids due to lack of oxygen cylinders at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, where he worked as a paediatrician.
Initially, he was hailed as a saviour for the children for arranging emergency oxygen cylinders. However, later, he faced action along with nine other doctors and staff members of the hospital, all of whom were released on bail.
A state government probe had cleared Khan of all major charges, prompting him to seek an apology from the Yogi Adityanath government. The doctor had alleged that an institutional failure had led to the deaths of the children.
He subsequently faced threats, cases and even his family members were attacked, which the doctor dubbed as political vendetta on the part of the state government.
What the Allahabad HC said
Quashing Khan’s detention order, the court said, “A complete reading of the speech prima facia does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence. 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.
“It appears that the District Magistrate had selective reading and selective mention for few phrases from the speech ignoring its true intent.”
The court further said in the instant case, the “causal link is found to be missing or completely broken”.
Under the NSA, a person can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months if authorities are satisfied that he or she is a threat to national security or law and order.
Khan spent over six months in jail under the NSA.
In its order, the court said, “The writ petition for the reasons above is allowed. The order of detention dated 13th February 2020 passed by District Magistrate, Aligarh and confirmed by the State of Uttar Pradesh is set aside. The extension of the period of detention of detenue Dr Kafeel Khan is also declared illegal.”
“A writ like a habeas corpus is hereby issued to release Dr Kafeel Khan, the detenue, from State custody forthwith,” it said.
The Uttar Pradesh government had extended Khan’s detention under the NSA by three months twice – in May and August.
In an order dated August 4, the home department had said the NSA was invoked against Khan on February 13, 2020, on the orders of the Aligarh district magistrate.
After this, the matter was sent to the advisory council, which, in its report, said there were “enough reasons” to keep Khan in jail.
On her way to Mathura after the court delivered its verdict, Khan’s mother Parveen told PTI on phone, “I am very happy that my son is coming out of jail. I will be able to see him for a long time.”
“My son is a good person and he was never against the country or society. It is also my daughter-in-law’s birthday today, and we are taking a cake with us as she is in Mathura,” she said.
(With PTI inputs)