The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Allahabad High Court to decide on a petition related to the release of Dr Kafeel Khan within 15 days, reported Bar and Bench. The Gorakhpur doctor was arrested in February under the stringent National Security Act for allegedly making inflammatory comments during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the Aligarh Muslim University in December.
The bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was hearing a plea filed by Khan’s mother Nuzhat Perween seeking time-bound hearing by the High Court of her petition. On March 18, the top court had asked Perween to move the High Court first. She again moved the Supreme Court after the hearing in the High Court was delayed.
“We request the HC [High Court] to dispose of the matter peremptorily as early as possible, having regard to the fact that it involves the liberty of the applicant, within a period of fifteen days from the date the parties appear before it,” the Supreme Court ruled.
The court, while passing the order, observed that it has always prioritised matters concerning personal liberty. “Liberty is something which we have prioritised even during hard times,” said Justice Bobde, according to Hindustan Times.
Khan was arrested on January 29 and granted bail in the case by a court in Aligarh district on February 10. However, he was not released from the Mathura jail. Instead, the NSA was invoked against him three days later and his detention continued.
Khan allegedly made a provocative speech during an “Open Talk” event at AMU during a protest on December 12. Psephologist Yogendra Yadav was the other speaker at the event.
A first information report was registered under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion. “Dr Kafeel said through the Citizenship Amendment Act, ‘we are giving employment in our homes to thieves who are stealing in our neighbourhood’,” the FIR said. “Dr Kafeel said in his speech that Mota bhai [Union Home Minister Amit Shah] teaches us to become Hindu or Muslim but not human beings.” The complaint also alleged that Khan said in his speech that in schools run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it is taught that “people with beards” are terrorists.
Khan was a paediatrician at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, when 63 children died in 2017 due to lack of oxygen. He was suspended from his post and jailed for nine months after a criminal case of medical negligence, corruption and dereliction of duty was filed against him. But an Uttar Pradesh government inquiry last year cleared him of all charges and lauded his actions to save lives during the crisis.
However, in October, the Uttar Pradesh government began a new departmental inquiry against Dr Khan for spreading incorrect information about the probe report and for making “anti-government” remarks during his suspension.