At a time that the Supreme Court is being seen as a muzzled watchdog silent in the face of rampant rise in hate crimes and unconscionable negligence, it is the high courts that have emerged as a beacon, offering limited succour to the persecuted. This time around, it has come to the rescue of two brave citizens.
Allahabad high court chief justice Govind Mathur has to his credit a long line of recent orders upholding fundamental rights. Many of them have come in suo motu cases.
It was Justice Mathur’s bench, for instance, which directed the Uttar Pradesh government in March this year to remove hoardings erected at public places displaying photos and addresses of alleged Citizenship (Amendment) Act dissenters.
And it is his bench that ordered the release of Gorakhpur paediatrician Kafeel Khan, setting aside the Yogi Adityanath government’s detention order against him, declaring his speech at Aligarh Muslim University campus on December 13, 2019, a call to unity and national integration.
Most importantly, it ruled the invocation of the National Security Act in the case two full months later as unsustainable. Khan had been granted bail in February but was kept in jail under the provisions of the NSA.
However, anti-CAA activist Devangana Kalita, who was granted bail by Delhi high court judge Suresh Kumar Kait who ruled that her presence in the protests at Jafrabad Metro station on the night of February 22 failed to prove that she had instigated Muslim women to violence or given a hate speech, will continue to remain in jail. She is in custody under another FIR filed under the draconian UAPA and has been refused bail in that case.
In his speech at AMU, Khan, whose family has been made the target of miscreant attacks, had called attention to the appalling absence of doctors and basic infrastructure in heartlands, and he had also mentioned that as a member of his community he refused to be browbeaten into silence.
He had criticised the impunity with which a labourer was killed in Rajasthan in 2017, simply for being Muslim.
In February, Khan’s own uncle became the victim of a shooting. The courts should compensate Khan for the sufferings that he has endured and the months that he has spent in jail — in 2017, too, he was harassed by the same administration for exposing medical negligence. A rational and pluralistic polity should heed his views.