WHEN HE walks out of Mathura Jail after nine months in detention, it will be the second time Dr Kafeel Khan would be released on court intervention after a long prison stint. In exactly the three years since he was first arrested on September 2, 2017, following deaths of children at BRD Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur allegedly due to oxygen supply shortage, the then nodal officer in-charge of the hospital’s paediatric wing has been in and out of jail, with the authorities slapping several charges against him.
These include charges under the Indian Medical Council Act and Information Technology Act (in the first FIR), for creating ruckus at a hospital, for opening bank accounts using forged documents, under Section 153 (hate speech) over the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, and finally the National Security Act. On Tuesday, the Allahabad High Court quashed the NSA charges.
Khan’s elder brother Adeel Ahmed says that he is the only one still paying for the August 2017 deaths in Gorakhpur, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s pocketborough, among all the accused. “There seems to be no end to his troubles since. All the other eight suspended with him have been reinstated, including then Principal of BRD Medical College (Rajiv Mishra).”
Khan was first held in September 2017, after charges were filed under the IPC (including attempt to commit culpable homicide), Indian Medical Council Act (for alleged private practice while employed with the government) as well as Section 66 of the IT Act. He got bail after seven months, in April 2018, from the Allahabad High Court.
A month later, he was arrested for allegedly creating ruckus at the district hospital in Bahraich. He had gone there following reports about the death of some children, to talk to the parents, and clashed with the staff. He was released on bail the same day.
A day later, Khan was arrested along with brother Ahmed, for allegedly opening an account in 2009 in a nationalised bank using fake documents. The two were released later. The police claimed Khan had made transactions worth Rs 2 crore through this account, including paying for his medical studies at Manipal University.
Soon, Khan was organising medical camps in different states, including Bihar and Assam. In March 2019, he came out with a book called Manipal Manual of Clinical Paediatrics. Simultan-eously, he moved court demanding that the inquiry against him over the Gorakhpur deaths be wrapped up and he be reinstated. He also wrote to CM Adityanath to either reinstate him or sack him.
Sources said two disciplinary inquiries were still ongoing against him, one relating to the BRD incident and another to the Barhaich episode. Incidentally, soon after an RTI reply revealed in September 2019 that then Principal Secretary, Stamp and Registration, Himanshu Kumar had cleared him of two of the four charges in the departmental probe related to BRD, Kumar went on study leave. The Uttar Pradesh government then constituted another inquiry, which is on under the present Principal Secretary, Stamp and Registration.
In December 2019, Khan started appearing in protests taking place against the CAA. According to the police, during one speech at Aligarh Muslim University on December 12, he made “inflammatory” remarks, with a reference to Home Minister Amit Shah and the RSS. A case was lodged against him under Section 153 (A) of the IPC, with Section 153 (B) and Sections 109, 505 (2) added during investigation.
Khan was arrested in this case by the Uttar Pradesh Police Special Task Force on January 29 this year, when he had just landed in Mumbai for anti-CAA protests. He was granted bail on February 10, but even as formalities were being completed to release him, on February 13, the Uttar Pradesh government slapped the NSA against him over the alleged speech.
Before his three-month detention was to end in May, it was extended for another three months, and on August 4, given one more extension of three months.
Opposition parties in the state have been demanding Khan’s release, including the Congress and Samajwadi Party.
On his way to Mathura to get Khan out, Ahmed said, “We fear that some other case might be imposed on him to keep him in jail.” The family said Khan’s three-year-old daughter, born when he was under arrested the first time, and his son born last year have hardly spent any time with their father.
Release Kafeel without delay: Priyanka, Chandra Shekhar
Hours after the Allahabad High Court ordered the immediate release of Dr Kafeel Khan, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad appealed to the state government and Aligarh district magistrate to release him without any delay and “rancour”.
“Aaj Allahabad High Court ne Dr Kafeel Khan ke upar Rasuka hatakar tatkal rihai ka adesh diya. Asha hai ki UP sarkar dr Kafeel Khan ko bina kisis vidvesh ke avilambh riha karegi…(The Allahabad High Court has today dropped NSA charged against Dr Kafeel Khan and ordered his immediate release. I hope that the Uttar Pradesh government will release him without any delay and rancour),” tweeted Priyanka. She congratulated all Congress workers for their efforts to ensure the release of Khan. In the recently concluded monsoon session of the UP Legislative Assembly, Congress legislators showed placards demanding Khan’s release.
In a letter written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Priyanka said that till July 30, Khan had spent 450 days in jail and sought justice for him.
Aazad also demanded Khan’s immediate release and urged the Aligarh district magistrate to perform his duty as per the Constitution and follow the court order. Aazad tweeted in Hindi: “I would like to tell the Aligarh DM to work as per the constitution. Governments come and go. When the Allahabad High Court has directed the release of Dr Kafeel Khan then why are you not releasing him?)”