Quashing the detention order of Dr Kafeel Khan under the stringent National Security Act (NSA), the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday slammed the state authorities for keeping him in jail “illegally” for six months and ordered “immediate release” of the Gorakhpur pediatrician.
The division bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal passed the order on the basis of a petition filed by his mother, Nuzhat Parveen. She had approached the Supreme Court first from where the plea was referred to HC.
Dr Khan, a pediatrician from Gorakhpur (UP), was arrested from Mumbai airport in January for an anti-CAA speech he delivered at the Aligarh Muslim University on 12 December 2019 for trying to “disrupt the harmony between the communities”. Later, NSA was invoked.
He was slapped with NSA charges on February 13, 2020, on the orders of the Aligarh District Magistrate and jailed for six months. On August 16, his detention under NSA was extended for the second time by three months.
Coming down heavily on the Aligarh DM, the judges said in their order, “Our anxiety is only to assess whether a reasonable man could have arrived at a conclusion as arrived by the District Magistrate, Aligarh? Prima Facie, the speech is not such that a reasonable man could have arrived at a conclusion as the inference drawn by the District Magistrate, Aligarh.”
The court further stated, “The DM’s subjective satisfaction was not found to have been reached in a legal and regular manner but on whim and humour.”
Dropping NSA charges, the court also ruled that there was no evidence to prove Dr Khan continued to have links with the protesters from inside jail.
Under the NSA, people can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months if authorities are satisfied that they are a threat to national security or law and order.
Dr Khan shot to fame in 2017 August when he helped save many children in the encephalitis ward by getting oxygen cylinders from his own sources after the oxygen supply of the hospital suddenly snapped. Over 50 children had died allegedly following disruption in oxygen supply owing to non payment of bills.
Later, he was slapped with many charges, including carelessness leading to loss of lives and private practice and was imprisoned for almost a year and half between 2017 and 2019 following the oxygen tragedy at a Gorakhpur hospital. The government’s own probe absolved him of all charges later.