Dr Kafeel Khan was released from Mathura jail after the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday quashed his detention under the National Security Act and ordered his immediate release, saying his speech at the AMU didn't promote hatred or violence and gave a call for national integrity.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh said the Aligarh district magistrate, who passed the order for Khan's detention, did a "selective reading" of his speech, "ignoring its true intent".
Khan's lawyer Irfan Ghazi said, "Mathura jail administration informed at around 11.00 pm that Dr Kafeel will be released, and at around midnight, he was released".
The high court allowed the writ petition filed by Khan's mother Nuzhat Parveen and said the detention order by the district magistrate was illegal.
The petition argued that Khan was granted bail in February by a competent court and he was supposed to be released on bail. However, he was not released for four days and the National Security Act (NSA) was subsequently invoked against him. Hence, his detention was illegal.
Khan was in jail since January after he delivered the allegedly provocative speech at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in December last year. He was lodged in Mathura jail.
On Tuesday evening, his family members said they would file a contempt plea in the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday if he was not released as per its orders.
Khan’s brother Adeel claimed that the jail administration told them that they will go by the order of the Mathura district magistrate and until the DM says, Kafeel would not be released.
Adeel claimed that after the High Court gave the order, an e-mail informing about the release of Khan was sent to the jail administration and the DMs of Mathura and Aligarh, but the authorities were “making an excuse” of not getting the order.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hailed the court's decision and hoped the Uttar Pradesh government would immediately release Khan "without any malice".
Quashing Khan's detention order, the court said, "A complete reading of the speech primafacie does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence. It also no where threatens peace and tranquility of the city of Aligarh. The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence.
"It appears that the District Magistrate had selective reading and selective mention for few phrases from the speech ignoring its true intent."
The court further said in the instant case, the "causal link is found to be missing or completely broken".
Under the NSA, a person can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months if authorities are satisfied that he or she is a threat to national security or law and order.
Khan spent over six months in jail under the NSA.
In its order, the court said, "The writ petition for the reasons above is allowed. The order of detention dated 13th February, 2020 passed by District Magistrate, Aligarh and confirmed by the State of Uttar Pradesh is set aside. The extension of the period of detention of detenue Dr. Kafeel Khan is also declared illegal."
"A writ in the nature of habeas corpus is hereby issued to release Dr. Kafeel Khan, the detenue, from State custody forthwith," it said.
The Uttar Pradesh government had extended Khan's detention under the NSA by three months twice -- in May and August.
In an order dated August 4, the Home Department had said the NSA was invoked against Khan on February 13, 2020, on the orders of the Aligarh district magistrate.
After this, the matter was sent to the advisory council, which, in its report, said there were "enough reasons" to keep Khan in jail.
On her way to Mathura after the court delivered its verdict, Khan's mother Parveen told PTI on phone, "I am very happy that my son is coming out of jail. I will be able to see him after a long time."
"My son is a good person and he was never against the country or the society. It is also my daughter-in-law's birthday today, and we are taking a cake with us as she is in Mathura," she said.
"If Kafeel is not released from the jail, then we will file a contempt appeal in the High Court on Wednesday," his brother Adeel said.
Mathura jail Senior Superintendent Shailendra Kumar Maitreya on Tuesday evening said he was yet to receive the court orders. District Magistrate Mathura Sarvagya Ram Mishra said orders of the court will be complied with.
"Since, the NSA was imposed on Kafeel by the Aligarh district magistrate, he should be contacted," Mishra said.
Khan's advocate Ghazi alleged that the Aligarh DM was not meeting him on the pretext of attending a meeting or other, despite hours of efforts made by him.
Khan, who worked as a paediatrician at Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College, first hit headlines in 2017 after several children died at the hospital due to the lack of oxygen cylinders.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi welcomed the court order.
"The Allahabad High Court today ordered the removal of NSA and immediate release of Dr. Kafeel Khan. It is expected that the UP government will release Dr. Kafeel Khan without any malice," she said in a tweet in Hindi.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine