The Allahabad High Court on Thursday quashed all criminal proceedings against Gorakhpur doctor Kafeel Khan in connection with a speech he delivered during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the Aligarh Muslim University in December 2019, Live Law reported.
In a first information report on the matter, Khan was charged with offences under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between religions), 153B (imputations prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
In March 2020, a magistrate court in Aligarh had taken cognisance of the chargesheet filed against him. Khan then moved a plea in the Allahabad High Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code seeking directions to quash the criminal proceedings and the cognisance order.Section 482 of the CrPC gives power to High Courts to prevent abuse of justice by lower courts.
In his plea, Khan had cited Section 196 of the CrPC which mandates prior sanction of prosecution by the central government, state government or the concerned district magistrate before a court can take cognisance of certain offences. The charges against Khan fell under this category and he had argued that the required sanction had not been taken in his case.
On Thursday, a single-judge bench of Justice Gautam Chaudhary of the Allahabad High Court agreed with the submissions made by Khan. The court quashed the charges against him and their cognisance by the Aligarh magistrate court.
The judge forwarded the case to the Aligarh court with directions that Khan can be charged under these sections only after obtaining the required sanction, Live Law reported.
Khan was arrested on January 30, 2020, for his speech at the Aligarh Muslim University. Later, the National Security Act, which allows the authorities to detain a person for up to 12 months without a charge, was invoked in the case.
However, the doctor was released in September after the Allahabad High Court quashed his detention order. The High Court had stated that Khan’s speech did not promote hatred or violence, but was an appeal to national integrity.
In December, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court order by dismissing a challenge against the verdict by the Uttar Pradesh government.
In a video message posted on Twitter on Thursday, Khan thanked the judiciary for the quashing the charges against him. “One should have self-belief in life,” Khan said. “If you haven’t done any wrong, you will emerge victorious at the end.”
The other cases against Khan
Khan was a paediatrician at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, where 63 children died due to lack of oxygen in 2017. He was suspended from his post after the incident and jailed for nine months on charges of medical negligence, corruption and dereliction of duty.
In September 2019, the Uttar Pradesh government cleared Khan of all charges and also praised him for doing everything he could to help save lives. During the crisis, Khan said he had bought oxygen cylinders with his own money and made arrangements through his network to get more supplies.
But in October 2019, the state government began a new investigation against Khan for allegedly spreading incorrect information about the inquiry report related to the deaths and making “anti-government” remarks during his suspension.
He remains suspended from service even as the Allahabad High Court, earlier this month, directed the Uttar Pradesh government to justify the suspension. A hearing on this matter is scheduled on August 31, Khan said in the video he tweeted on Thursday.