In a sudden decision after a 45 minute hearing, a supreme court bench today referred the plea of Patel quota leader Hardik Patel challenging the invocation of sedition charge against him by Gujarat Police for allegedly inciting a fellow activist to 'beat up or kill' Gujarat police men instead of committing suicide, to another bench.
A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Amitava Roy, which heard Patel's lawyer Kapil Sibal merely said “we will send it to another bench” but did not assign any reason. The decision was taken after both the judges discussed with each other for nearly 2-3 minutes after Sibal concluded his arguments that the charge of sedition was not made out against his 22-year-old client.
At the outset, the senior lawyer referred to the content of the FIR lodged against Hardik Patel on October 18 under various IPC provisions relating to the offence of sedition, abetment of an offence, spreading rumour or false statement and criminal intimidation. Sibal further said that some of the charges have been quashed by the Gujarat High Court and the charges under sections 124A (sedition), 115 (abetment of an offence) of IPC have not been done away with.
“We are not challenging the vires of the penal law. This is a valid law. The question is what is the test to be applied in the offence of sedition”, he said and referred to the factual aspects of the case when Hardik had visited the residence of a pro-quota activist on October 3.
SIBAL SLAMS CHARGES
"In Karnataka, somebody said chop-off the head of the Chief Minister, sedition is not filed. In Kashmir, there are separatists who say anti-national things but sedition case is not being filed but 22-year-old Hardik is being made victim. This is a great opportunity for this court to look at the matter and see the contours of sedition", Sibal said.
Invoking charges including sedition, the state police had said in its FIR that Hardik had exhorted activist Vipul Desai not to commit suicide but rather beat or kill 2-3 policemen.
Referring to constitutional schemes on freedom of speech and expression, Sibal said the question is whether the alleged statement disturbed the public order or related to incitement to commit an offence.
He also referred to the legal positions prevalent in the United Kingdom and the USA and said that the offence of sedition has been abolished in England.
So far as the USA is concerned, various case laws suggest that the offence of sedition cannot be invoked by merely considering the word of mouth and there has to be a proximate relationship between the statement and the consequence, the senior advocate said.
Sibal sought urgent hearing of Hardik's plea and said the alleged incident took place on October 3, the FIR was registered on October 18 and as a matter of fact no incident as a consequence of the statement took place. He also referred to statements by various persons and said the charge of sedition has not been invoked on them, whereas Hardik was forced to face the charge.