Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Zafarul Islam Khan moves Delhi HC for anticipatory bail

The plea states that being chairperson of the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC), he has always worked within the constitutional mandate of secularism, non-discrimination and equality

Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Zafarul Islam Khan moves Delhi HC for anticipatory bail
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Ashlin Mathew

The chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission Zafarul Islam Khan has moved the Delhi High Court for anticipatory bail through his lawyers Vrinda Grover, Ratna Appnender and Soutik Banerjee. The case has been listed for May 12.

In the petition, he has sought to invoke Section 438 and Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as Khan believes that his arrest is motivated and untenable in an absolutely frivolous case registered at the Lodi Colony special cell police station.

He has requested the court to ensure that his laptop, mobile phone are not seized and that no coercive action would be taken against him.

The Delhi police landed at Khan’s residence on Wednesday, May 6, a week after a sedition case was booked against himfor a post on social media expressing his thanks to Kuwait for highlighting the issues of Muslims in the country. The case filed by a Vasant Kunj resident invoked 124A (sedition) and 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, and doing acts to promote disharmony) of the Indian Penal Code.

His lawyer Vrinda Grover had stated that since Khan was 72-years-old, as per Section 160 of CrPC, the police cannot compel attendance of a person above 65 years age at any place other than their residence for the purpose of investigation and interrogation.

It was reported that a large number of policemen had reached Khan’s residence to arrest him, but Aam Aadmi Party MLA Amanatullah Khan, former Congress MLA Asif Mohammad Khan and several locals gathered in support of Khan at his residence. The police left soon.

In the petition at the High Court, he states that being the chairperson of the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC), he has always worked with the Constitutional mandate of secularism, non-discrimination and equality. He has always taken a strong stand against communalism and the targeting of Indian Muslims on the basis of their religious identity.

Khan states that he has always condemned terrorism and violence in the name of Islam. Even in 2014, the petitioner was among the first to condemn and speak against the terrorist groups such as ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram, states the petition.

Since late March 2020, India has seen a widespread blame campaign against the Muslim community for spreading Coronavirus. On social media platforms, hashtags such as #Coronajihad, #CrushTablighiSpitters, #BioJihad were trending.

Pointing towards his role as the chairperson of the DMC, the petition states that Khan, in his capacity as the Chairperson, shared a post, which while expressing thanks to Kuwait for highlighting the cause of Muslims in the country had also stated that Indian Muslims did not seek or require external help. The chairperson was addressing the ‘bigots’, who through their words and actions are destroying the secular fabric and communal harmony within the country.

The petition states that due to the false, inflammatory and distorted media coverage of Khan’s social media posts, it had incited hatred against the petitioner. Khan insists that the complaints were filed with the intention to attract publicity to the complaints.

“That is why even after a week since the FIR was registered, the petitioner was not served any legal notice for interrogation,” notes the petition. Instead, a police team led by inspector Parveen arrived at Khan’s residence at iftar time and orally asked him to accompany them to the police station for interrogation. Under Section 41A of the CrPC, the police are required to give a written notice for interrogation.

Khan’s lawyers point out that this was a curtailment of free speech by casting a wide net and it was contrary to Article 19(2) of the Constitution and this was also indicated by the Supreme Court when it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act in 2015.

Ever since the outbreak of violence in North-East Delhi in February 2020, the lawyers pointed out, Khan as the chairperson of DMC has been engaged in restoration of social harmony and ensuring justice for victims. This case, they believe, is an attempt to obstruct a public servant from discharging his duty.

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