File photo of Dr Kafeel Khan

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of Dr Kafeel Khan who was charged under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) for an allegedly provocative speech against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Khan was arrested in January for delivering the speech at Aligarh Muslim University on December 10, 2019. The NSA was invoked against Khan on February 13, 2020, on the orders of the Aligarh District Magistrate. On August 16, his detention under NSA was extended for the second time by three months.

 

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh held that prima facie, his speech is not such that a reasonable man could have arrive at a conclusion as the inference drawn by the District Magistrate, Aligarh, who passed the detention order against Dr Khan in February this year.

“The speaker was certainly opposing the policies of the government and while doing so certain illustration are given by him, but that nowhere reflects the eventualities demanding detention. A complete reading of the speech prima facie does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence. It also nowhere threatens peace and tranquillity 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 Bench observed after extracting the speech of Khan in its entirety.

Accordingly, it revoked the NSA charges against Dr Khan, the order of detention dated 13th February, 2020 passed by District Magistrate, Aligarh under the NSA Act and confirmed by the State of Uttar Pradesh has been set aside. The extension of the period of detention of Dr Khan is also declared illegal.

The HC observed that the UP state failed to discharge its burden to establish that Dr Khan’s December speech had “such a deleterious effect on the public order in district-Aligarh as had continued to exist up to 13.02.2020 necessitating preventive detention of the detenue”.

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