“We will decide whether the statements do come within the ambit and sweep of freedom of speech and expression or exceed the boundary that is not permissible” Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra.
Supreme Court today prima-facie expressed disapproval of the alleged comments made by Uttar Pradesh minister and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan that the Bulandshahr gang rape incident in which a minor girl and her mother were victims was a “political conspiracy” to malign his party-led government in the state.
Acting on a petition filed by the minor victim seeking criminal prosecution of Khan for the comments and transfer of the trial of the case outside the state, a bench of justice Dipak Misra and justice C Nagappan framed four questions including “Whether the statements do come within the ambit and sweep of freedom of speech and expression or exceed the boundary that is not permissible”.
The court which has stayed the investigation in the case and issued notice to the state and Khan to be returnable within three weeks also appointed senior lawyer, legendary Fali S Nariman as amicus curiae to assist the court on four significant questions to be decided.
(a) When a victim files an F.I.R. alleging rape, gang rape or murder or such other heinous offences against another person or group of persons, whether any individual holding a public office or a person in authority or in-charge of governance, should be allowed to comment on the crime stating that “it is an outcome of political controversy”, more so, when as an individual, he has nothing to do with the offences in question?
(b) Should the “State”, the protector of citizens and responsible for law and order situation, allow these comments as they have the effect potentiality to create a distrust in the mind of the victim as regards the fair investigation and, in a way, the entire system?
(c) Whether the statements do come within the ambit and sweep of freedom of speech and expression or exceed the boundary that is not permissible?
(d) Whether such comments (which are not meant for self protection) defeat the concept of constitutional compassion and also conception of constitutional sensitivity?
“The question is of CBI probe. We are staying it. We will also examine need for transferring trial outside UP. Question is of witnesses”, said the bench adding “the father of the victim girl, has been disillusioned about the process of fair investigation in the State of Uttar Pradesh because of various developments and more so, with regard to the public addresses made by the respondent No.2 (khan) herein, have taken place and, therefore, the case needs to be transferred to another State.
WHAT KHAN ALLEGEDLY SAID
"We need to investigate whether this is a conspiracy by opponents who want to defame the government.For votes, people can stoop to any level. There can be a Muzaffarnagar, a Shamli and Kairana...why not this? For power, politicians can murder people, trigger riots, kill innocent people, so the truth has to be found out," news reports had quoted him as saying.
Allahabad HC on August 12 ordered a CBI inquiry into the case observing that it was not satisfied with the police investigation so far.
The High Court, which had taken suo motu cognizance of the July 29 incident, also said it intended to "monitor the investigation into the case".
A division bench comprising Chief Justice D.B. Bhosale and Justice Yashwant Varma of the HC passed the order a day after the state government submitted a status report on the investigation into the incident in a sealed cover.
The incident had taken place when six members of a Noida-based family were travelling to Shahjahanpur in western Uttar Pradesh.
At the National Highway passing through Bulandshahr, their car was stopped by criminals, who dragged the 13-year-old girl and her mother out and raped them in a field nearby.
The girl and her mother, along with her family, was going to a funeral late on July 29, when armed men stopped their car, tied and beat up the men and gang-raped the girl and her 35-year-old mother for almost three hours.
Read the order here.