HC grants anticipatory bail to former DMC chairman in sedition case

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New Delhi, July 31

The Delhi High Court Friday granted anticipatory bail to former Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) Chairman Zafarul Islam Khan in a sedition case as he was not required for further investigation by the police.

Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri, who conducted the hearing through video conferencing, granted the relief to the 72-year-old and asked him to join the investigation as and when required.

Khan’s tenure in the commission ended recently.

“The petitioner (Khan) is admitted to anticipatory bail on furnishing of a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety of the like amount in the event of arrest,” the judge said while dictating the order.

The court was informed by advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Khan, that he has already submitted his laptop with the police and joined the investigation a number of times.

Prosecutor M P Singh said he has instructions from the police that Khan is no longer required for further investigation.

The high court, while granting pre-arrest bail to Khan, asked him to cooperate in the investigation and in case of change in address, inform the investigating officer.

He was also asked not to leave Delhi without prior intimation to the police.

The court was hearing a plea by Khan seeking anticipatory bail in the sedition case lodged against him, citing his age, health issues and risk of contracting COVID-19.

The court had earlier granted him interim relief, asking the police not to take any coercive measure against him till July 31.

On April 28, Khan had published, through his official page on social media, a post that allegedly had seditious and hateful comments.

On May 2, based on a complaint, Delhi Police Special Cell 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,” said the petition filed through advocates Vrinda Grover, Ratna Appnender and Soutik Banerjee.

The plea has 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 should not be 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. PTI SKV HMP 

  SA

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