UP Doctor Kafeel Khan's Detention Under Tough Law NSA "Illegal", Free Him: High Court

Dr Kafeel Khan was charged under National Security Act for his speech against the CAA at a talk at the Aligarh Muslim University late last year.

UP doctor Kafeel Khan is currently lodged in a jail in Mathura. (File)

Highlights

  • Dr Kafeel Khan was jailed for an alleged speech against CAA
  • The Gorakhpur doctor was arrested on January 29
  • Dr Kafeel Khan is currently lodged in a jail in Mathura
Lucknow:

Kafeel Khan, the Uttar Pradesh doctor jailed under the tough National Security Act (NSA) for an alleged speech against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, must be freed immediately, a court said today, calling his detention illegal. The doctor's speech did not show any effort to promote hate or violence, the Allahabad High Court said.

Dr Khan was charged under National Security Act for his speech against the CAA at a talk at the Aligarh Muslim University late last year. The Gorakhpur doctor was arrested on January 29. While he was first charged for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, charges under the National Security Act were invoked two days after he was given bail on February 10 this year.

Dr Kafeel Khan is currently lodged in a jail in Mathura.

The First Information Report, filed on December 13 last year, says Dr Khan made an attempt to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere at the university and disturb communal harmony.

"A complete reading of the speech prima facie does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence. It also no where threatens peace and tranquility of the city of Aligarh," the high court said today. "It appears that the District Magistrate had selective reading and selective mention for few phrases from the speech ignoring its true intent," the High Court said.

Introduced in 1980, the strict National Security Act empowers the government to detain people, without being charged in court, for up to a year if they suspect that they could disrupt public order, endanger the security of India or its ties with foreign countries.

Dr Khan was unable to access his speech - the grounds for his detention - inside the jail as was not not given any instrument to play a CD or compact disc, his family's lawyer said.

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"The grounds for detention (under NSA) served to Dr Kafeel Khan was in the form of a CD containing the copy of his alleged speech at the Aligarh Muslim University. But no instrument was provided to Dr Khan inside the jail for him to view the CD. Not even a script was given, so Dr Khan never found out what the basic allegations against him were," Manoj Kumar, lawyer for the doctor's family said.

"An innocent person who had done nothing wrong was slapped with NSA and he was hounded for seven months. No one can bring back those seven months. We cannot explain how those seven months have gone for us , when we think about it we feel mortified," Dr Shabista Khan, wife of Dr Kafeel Khan said, reacting to the today's verdict.

"Hope the UP government will release Dr Kafeel Khan without any bitterness and delay," Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted in Hindi.

Dr Khan was suspended, arrested and jailed for his alleged role in the deaths of over 60 children at a government hospital in Gorakhpur due to alleged oxygen shortage in 2017. In September last year, Dr Khan claimed a UP government report cleared him of all major accusations, but the state government has denied it.

The Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA promises citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, making religion a test of Indian nationality for the first time.

While critics say the law can be used to persecute Muslims in combination with the planned National Register of Citizens (NRC), the government says the law will help those who have faced religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.