The Supreme Court today accepted Uttar Pradesh minister and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan’s apology for calling a Bulandshahr gang rape a “political conspiracy”.
The Bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, today reproduced the relevant paragraph from Azam Khan’s fresh affidavit in which he said that “if by any statement made by him (Azam Khan), the petitioner has felt insulted or humiliated, then he (Azam Khan) unconditionally and without reserve expresses his sincere and heartfelt remorse in this regard”.
While closing the matter as far as Azam Khan is concerned, the bench decided to continue the hearing with regard to the questions framed vide order dated August 29, and directed its listing on February 8, 2017 for the purpose of debating those questions.
The bench recorded counsel for Azam Khan, Kapil Sibal’s submission that the questions framed by the Court involved extremely significant issues relating to freedom of speech and expression within the Constitutional contours and, therefore, he would like to assist the Court.
The first among the questions framed by the Court on August 29, is whether an individual holding a public office or a person in authority or in-charge of governance, can be allowed to comment on the crime and state that “it is an outcome of political controversy” (as Azam Khan said), more so, when he has nothing to do with the offence in question.
The second question is whether the State could allow such comments, as they have the effect potentially to create a distrust in the mind of the victim as regards the fair investigation and, in a way, the entire system.
The third issue is whether the statements come within the ambit and sweep of freedom of speech and expression or exceed the boundary that is not permissible.
The fourth question is whether such comments (which are not meant for self protection) defeat the concept of constitutional compassion and also conception of constitutional sensitivity.
Both senior advocate, Fali S Nariman, as Amicus Curiae, and Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi assisted the court in the matter.
Read the order here.