“Dr. Kafeel Khan ko rihaa karo (release Dr Kafeel Khan); Kanoon vyavastha dhwasth hai, Yogi Baba mast hai (law-and-order system has collapsed, Yogi Baba is relaxed),” placards in hands, bringing attention to prolonged detention of Gorakhpur pediatrician Dr. Kafeel Khan, and the rising crime rate in Uttar Pradesh, opposition members staged a protest in, and outside the Vidhan Sabha.
Led by members of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, the protest has highlighted the continuous victimisation of Dr. Kafeel Khan who has been incarcerated in a Mathura jail, under conditions he himself described in a letter he reportedly sent in June. Dr. Khan had detailed that Mathura prison had unhygienic and filthy living conditions, and there was a risk to life due to congestion and no social distancing, even as Covid-19 cases continued to rise in Uttar Pradesh. He had earlier written to Prime Minister Modi in March, pleading that he be released and to be used as a medical specialist to help suffering in the pandemic.
The hearing for final disposal is scheduled to be held today, August 24 in the High Court. The Uttar Pradesh government had extended Dr. Kafeel Khan’s detention under the National Security Act (NSA) for another 3 months, till November, as per the state Home Department order dated August 4. Khan was arrested on January 29, 2020, and has been in custody since then.
The Uttar Pradesh Congress Members have been campaigning for Dr. Khan’s release for weeks now. The campaign, stated news reports, was monitored by its minority cell, Shahnawaz Alam, who had himself spent 16 days in jail for allegedly participating in an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest in Lucknow.
Civil society, and human rights activists, have been consistently campaigning for Dr. Khan’s release, as well as the release of other ‘political prisoners’ who have been targeted for dissenting, against the government. Dr. Khan was arrested by the UP government for allegedly making provocative speeches at an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in December. He was charged under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) to ensure his continuous incarceration.
The UP Congress minority cell had also launched a door-to-door campaign in support of and demanding the release of Dr. Khan, on July 22. Shahnawaz Alam, had then told the National Herald that they would also “reach out to clerics, madarsas, educational institutes, self-help groups, members of civil society and ask them to raise their voice in favour of our demand. Congress will use each and every forum, media, symbol to mobilize people against BJP’s brutal regime…On behalf of Priyanka Gandhi, the party will offer a Chadar at every dargah in the state in order to galvanize support for Dr. Khan.”
Even before he was arrested by the UP government for his alleged provocative speeches during the anti-CAA protests, Dr. Kafeel Khan had suffered a nine-month long incarceration and was suspended by the Uttar Pradesh government for alleged medical negligence at the case of the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, where the lack of oxygen supply had taken the lives of more than 60 children. However, he was given a clean-chit in the matter and acquitted in the case after a government-appointed inquiry.
The Allahabad High Court, on August 19 adjourned the habeas corpus petition hearing of Dr. Kafeel Khan after his counsel requested for time to file rejoinder to the affidavit filed by the respondent and the respondent i.e the state requested time for filing additional affidavit. The high court was directed by the Supreme court on August 11 to expeditiously decide the matter, preferably within 15 days.
The High Court in its detailed order of August 19 provided a list of dates of how the proceedings have continued since the matter was transferred to the high court on March 18 by the Supreme Court. The Court however, mentioned that the original record of the petition was not sent to the High Court and was instead sent via email by the apex court registrar only on May 8 stating that postal facility was not available to Allahabad. The High Court, hence, maintained printed copies of the petition as an official record and posted the matter for June 1. The matter was kept for hearing quite a few times until August, but each time the petitioner’s counsel asked time to move some application or requested for video conference hearing when the case was called for physical hearing. In July, the court allowed Khan’s counsel to file an amended petition as well as impleadment application.
The amended petition was filed in August and the court issued specific direction on August 5 that respondent should file a response to the amended petition before the next date, SabrangIndia had reported the matter in detail.
The court scheduled the hearing for August 24 for final disposal and has directed the registry to accept whatever document is sought to be filed by any of the parties to the proceedings even on a holiday.