2 Feb 2021 7:17 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the Non-Bailable Warrant issued against AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh in connection with FIRs for 'hate speech' at his press conference at Lucknow, UP in August last year. In a press conference, on 12.08.2020, he made certain statements regarding which an FIR was lodged with the Police Station Hazratganj, Lucknow, under Sections 153-A, 153-B,...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the Non-Bailable Warrant issued against AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh in connection with FIRs for 'hate speech' at his press conference at Lucknow, UP in August last year.
In a press conference, on 12.08.2020, he made certain statements regarding which an FIR was lodged with the Police Station Hazratganj, Lucknow, under Sections 153-A, 153-B, 501, 505(1), 505(2) IPC. After investigation, the Investigating Officer filed a charge sheet on 07.09.2020 under the aforesaid sections. Vide order dated 17.09.2020 the State government granted sanction for prosecution of the petitioner under section 196 CrPC. On 04.12.2020, the Additional Sessions Judge, the designated Special Judge MP/MLA Court, Lucknow took cognisance and issued summons to the applicant.
The said order was challenged in a petition under Section 482 CrPC before the Allahabad High Court.
The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan was hearing Singh's SLP against the Allahabad High Court order of January 21, rejecting the challenge to the said order.
In a separate writ petition, Singh has moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of multiple FIRs lodged against him in various districts of Uttar Pradesh, saying they have been "maliciously instituted to unleash political vendetta".
"On the 21st, the matter was argued before the HC. We had sought exemption (from the trial court). But instead of exempting, a non-bailable warrant has been issued for today!", urged Senior Advocate Vivek Tankha for the petitioner.
"Let the judgment (of the High Court) be placed on record...unless we see the judgment, we cannot pass any order...", said Justice Bhushan.
"The judgment of the HC is on sanction and cognisance...the order of the Trial Court is on record! We said the petitioner is a MP and look at the complaint made! And the NBW has been issued for today!", pressed Mr. Tankha.
"No, today we will not pass any order", said the bench, listing the matter for the next week, directing that the HC judgment be brought on record in the meantime.
In dismissing Singh's plea, the HC had on January 21 noted that By the impugned order, sanction has been granted by the State Government for prosecution for offences under Section 153-A, 153-B, 501, 505(1), 505(2) IPC. However, the order wrongly mentions Section 197 CrPC as the relevant provision.
"Even though it has not been pleaded in the text of the petition, the counsel for the applicant has submitted that since the sanction for prosecution has been granted under Section 197 CrPC, the order stands vitiated as the appropriate section is Section 196 CrPC", the HC recorded.
"In a situation where an authority has a power in law, the the mere reference to a wrong provision of law in the order does not vitiate the order", it held.
So far as the second submission that the sanction under Section 196 CrPC should have been granted by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is concerned, the HC noted that the wording of Section 196 CrPC clearly indicates that the power to grant sanction for prosecution is vested in both the Central Government and the State Government. The said provision uses the word "or" which means that either one out of the Central Government or the State Government can grant the sanction as the case may be.
" So far as the sanction order is concerned, the order shows that after due application of mind sanction has been accorded. Mere wrong mention of provision does not affect its validity. The impugned order of cognizance is found to be just and legal. No perversity could be shown in the order taking cognisance", ruled the HC.
As per PTI reports, Singh said he had conducted a press conference at Lucknow of Uttar Pradesh on August 12, last year wherein he had alleged that the state government was favouring one particular caste over the others.
In the said press conference, the petitioner had merely raised certain social issues, namely neglect and apathy of the government towards a certain class of society, he said in his writ petition filed through advocate Sumeer Sodhi.
The AAP leader said after the press conference, multiple FIRs were registered against him at the instance of the BJP's members in various police stations in different districts of Uttar Pradesh.
Singh said the writ petition has been filed by him for direction to quash the FIRs registered against him, as these FIRs are manifestly attended with malafides and have been maliciously instituted to unleash political vendetta against the petitioner and to harass him.
The said FIRs have been filed against the petitioner out of the malice and sheer political vendetta with intent to coerce, harass and intimidate the petitioner as a part of larger ploy to muzzle the opposition leaders, from speaking up against the government of Uttar Pradesh, Singh's application said.
The Rajya Sabha MP further claimed that the content of the said FIRs are verbatim similar and have been filed across several districts across a length of more than 700 kilometres of the state on the same day within a span of a few hours. He said he is aware of eight FIRs filed in eight districts including at Lucknow, Sant Kabir Nagar, Khiri, Bagpat, Muzaffarnagar, Basti and at Aligarh.
The petitioner submits that the identical FIRs have been filed across several districts across the entire length of the State of Uttar Pradesh pointing very clearly to the fact that FIRs are only aimed at harassing the petitioner and his political associates, he said.
Singh contended that the said FIRs are a threat to the petitioner's exercise of the right to free speech, right to assemble peacefully; right to move freely throughout the territory of India which are guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
The press conference was an exercise through which the petitioner was raising pertinent social and political issues, and the said FIRs have been filed with the sole intention to stifle the voice of opposition which is fundamental to a functional democracy, he added.
He said the FIRs filed against him are "frivolous, baseless, vexatious and are figments of imagination of the complainant and the police department".
It is pertinent to mention that there has not been even a single incident of violence or disharmony as a result of the statements made by the petitioner in the press conference and the said multiple FIRs are in teeth of the settled law enunciated by the top court in various verdicts, where it has been held that there can be no second FIR with respect to same offence.
Singh said free and fair elections are a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and any attempt to prevent the opposition from taking part in campaigning or raising pertinent political and social issues is an assault on the basic structure of the Constitution.
He alleged that FIRs have been registered against him on the directions of the Officer of Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to the Station in-charge of the several police stations as per the information and genuine belief of the petitioner.
The state machinery in complete derogation of their duties and responsibilities conferred upon it by law have been involved in mounting undue pressure upon the petitioner by threatening to take coercive action against the petitioner in order to make him succumb to their unbridled envy, Singh added.
He said the sole aim of the state machinery is to prevent the petitioner from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh and from carrying out political activities there in the run up to the elections in 2022.
In light of the aforesaid, the petitioner prays that the aforesaid FIRs registered against him be quashed as they are nothing but an abuse of process aimed at stifling the voice of opposition in a democracy and the petitioner's fundamental rights," he said.
Alternatively, he also sought transfer of the FIRs lodged in connection with the press conference of August 12, 2020 and related political activities of the petitioner outside of Uttar Pradesh.