The Delhi High Court Monday directed the police not to take any coercive measure against Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) Chairman Zafarul Islam Khan in the sedition case till July 31.
Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri, who conducted the hearing through video conferencing, extended the interim protection granted to Khan and directed the Delhi Police to serve a copy of the status report filed in the matter to the petitioner.
The high court listed the matter for further hearing on July 31.The high court was hearing a plea by Khan, through advocate Vrinda Grover, seeking anticipatory bail in the sedition case lodged against him, citing his old age, health issues and risk of the coronavirus or COVID-19 infection.
It has earlier asked the police to give prior notice to Khan if called for investigation and called for a status report on the anticipatory bail plea.
On April 28, Khan published through his official page on social media a post that allegedly had seditious and hateful comments.
On May 2, based on a complaint, the Delhi Police Special Cell lodged an FIR against Khan under Sections 124A and 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for the alleged offences of sedition and promoting feelings of hatred between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence and language.
Khan sought anticipatory bail on the ground that he is a public servant and a senior citizen aged 72 years, who suffers from heart disease and hypertension and is highly susceptible to COVID-19 infection which can have fatal consequences for a person of his age and health condition.
“In these circumstances there is an urgent need to grant him protection from arrest and coercive action in a frivolous and untenable case, in order to safeguard his liberty as the failure to do so will have irreversible consequences on his right to life,” the petition filed through advocates Vrinda Grover, Ratna Appnender and Soutik Banerjee said.
The plea has sought direction to the police that in the event of his arrest, he be immediately released on bail and that no coercive measures be taken against him. It also sought direction that Khan's laptop and mobile should not be seized.
The plea claimed that no offence has been committed by Khan and the FIR has been registered with a mala fide intention to harass and intimidate him.
It said the FIR against him was "misconceived, being made on a misrepresentation of facts and an erroneous, untenable reading of the law”.
Khan claimed in the plea that his social media post was falsely reported, distorted and sensationalised out of context by certain sections of the media to embarrass him and to tarnish his stellar work that he has been doing as Chairman of the commission.
“Alarmed that his social media post was being maliciously and knowingly distorted and false meanings and motives attributed to his words, the petitioner (Khan) responded through his social media posts dated April 29, 2020, and further on May 1, 2020, the petitioner elaborated on his original tweet and clarified the distortions and misrepresentations by sections of the media,” the plea said.
It said that despite the clarifications, a “communal and politically motivated misinformation campaign was orchestrated” against Khan to undermine the good work done by him over 20 years.
After almost a week since registration of the FIR, Khan was not served with any legal notice for interrogation and on the evening of May 6, when he was settling down for Iftaar, a police team came to his residence and orally asked him to accompany them to the Cyber Cell Police Station, it said.
The plea added that the police did not give any written notice to him as mandated under the CrPC.