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Dr Kafeel Khan Walks Out of Jail. Why Was He Detained for Speech that Allahabad HC Found Promoting Unity?

File photo of Dr Kafeel Khan

File photo of Dr Kafeel Khan

Dr Kafeel Khan was detained under the National Security Act for an allegedly 'provocative' speech given during anti-CAA protests in Aligarh in December last year.

Dr Kafeel Khan finally walked out of jail in the wee hours of Wednesday after the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday quashed his detention under the National Security Act and ordered his immediate release.

Soon after the order, when Kafeel's family reached Mathura jail for his release, the authorities refused to release him citing non-receipt of the order, following which the family had said they would file a contempt petition in the Allahabad High Court. In a tweet, his wife Dr Shabista alleged, "Even after high court order they are not releasing drkafeel from mathura jail."

Earlier, the court declared that the extension of his detention as illegal and ordered the immediate release of detained Dr Kafeel Khan and the dropping of the stringent NSA charges against him. The relief comes after months of detention for Kafeel who had been in prison for making inflammatory speeches in December. Khan was in prison since January.

Who is Dr Kafeel Khan?

Dr Kafeel Khan was a lecturer and the nodal officer of the encephalitis ward in the state-run BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur. Dr Khan was greatly lauded for his efforts to save lives during the 2017 tragedy in the hospital that caused the deaths of 63 children. The deaths reportedly occurred due to a cut in the oxygen supply, with medical negligence being blamed for the deaths. Khan was arrested in August 2017 after the UP government denied that the deaths had occurred due to cutting of oxygen supply. Khan was quitted of all charges in September 2019.

Why was Kafeel Khan in prison now?

Khan has been in jail since January 29 after a speech he delivered at the Aligarh Muslim University on December 10, 2019 during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests. Following the speech, the Uttar Pradesh government invoked NSA charges against him on February 13, 2020, by of the Aligarh District Magistrate. On August 16, his detention under NSA was extended for the second time by three months.

Why was Kafeel Khan's extension illegal?

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. Khan's mother Nuzhat Parveen filed a plea in Allahabad HC seeking his release following which a bench comprising of justices Manoj Mishra and Deepak Verma passed the order asking the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to file their replies in a case seeking the release of Khan. In Tuesday's hearing, the Allahabad HC observed that the Kafeel speech was not inflammatory and not sufficient for preventive detention.

What did the court say?

The division bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh observed that Khan's speech does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or unrest, as per Live Law. The court held that the speech did not harm the "peace and tranquility of Aligarh". It further added that the address gave a "call for national integrity and unity among the citizens".

Khan had popular support from civil society and several celebrities who have for months been running a campaign for his release. His family credited Dr Kafeel's active social work after being released from jail in 2018 as the reason behind growing support for the doctor.

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