Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Zafarul Islam Khan on Friday approached the Delhi High Court seeking anticipatory bail in sedition case lodged against him.
The plea was mentioned for an urgent hearing and it has been allowed to be listed on May 12, his advocate Vrinda Grover said.
Khan on April 28 published a post having alleged seditious and hateful comments through his official page on social media. Based on a complaint, the Delhi Police Special Cell on May 2 lodged an FIR against Khan under Sections 124A and 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for the alleged offences of sedition and promoting feelings of hatred between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence and language.
Khan sought anticipatory bail on the ground that he is a public servant and a senior citizen aged 72 years, who suffers from heart disease and hypertension and is highly susceptible to COVID-19 infection which can have fatal consequences for a person of his age and health condition.
“In these circumstances there is an urgent need to grant him protection from arrest and coercive action in a frivolous and untenable case, in order to safeguard his liberty as the failure to do so will have irreversible consequences on his right to life”, the petition filed through advocates Vrinda Grover, Ratna Appnender and Soutik Banerjee said.
The plea sought direction to the police that in the event of his arrest, he be immediately released on bail and that no coercive measures be taken against him. It also sought direction that Khan’s laptop and mobile be not seized.
The plea claimed that no offence has been committed by Khan and the FIR has been registered with a mala fide intention to harass and intimidate him. It said the FIR against him was “misconceived, being made on a misrepresentation of facts and an erroneous, untenable reading of the law”.
Khan claimed in the plea that his social media post was falsely reported, distorted and sensationalised out of context by certain sections of the media to embarrass him and to tarnish his stellar work that he has been doing as Chairman of the commission. “Alarmed that his social media post was being maliciously and knowingly distorted and false meanings and motives attributed to his words, the petitioner (Khan) responded through his social media posts dated April 29, 2020, and further on May 1, 2020, the petitioner elaborated on his original tweet and clarified the distortions and misrepresentations by sections of the media”, the plea said.
It said that despite the clarifications, a “communal and politically motivated misinformation campaign was orchestrated” against Khan to undermine the good work done by him over 20 years. After almost a week since registration of the FIR, Khan was not served with any legal notice for interrogation and on the evening of May 6, when he was settling down for Iftaar, a police team came to his residence and orally asked him to accompany them to the Cyber Cell Police Station, it said.
The plea added that the police did not give any written notice to him as mandated under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). It said that though the police spent around two hours at Khan’s house, they did not conduct any investigation, did not question him or examine his laptop.
“Instead, while leaving, the police verbally asked the petitioner to appear at the Cyber Cell, Dwarka on May 8, with his laptop and mobile phone. The Petitioner repeatedly communicated to the investigating officer that he was available and willing to cooperate with the investigation at his residence, however the police did not question him or examine his laptop or mobile phone”, the plea said.
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