THE plea of Patel quota leader Hardik Patel challenging the invocation of sedition charge against him for allegedly inciting a fellow activist to 'beat up or kill' Gujarat police men instead of committing suicide was referred by a Supreme Court bench to another bench on Wednesday (November 4).
A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Amitava Roy, which heard Patel's lawyer Kapil Sibal for over half-an-hour, 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 two-three 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.
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 two-three 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.
"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.
This is the second case of sedition against Hardik, the first case was filed by Surat Police.
The 22-year-old leader and his three aides are currently in the custody of city Crime Branch in connection with the second sedition case.
The Gujarat HC had earlier refused to quash the sedition case against Hardik for his purported suggestion to kill policemen.
The HC had said that prima facie there was a case of sedition against Patel as any attempt to incite people to resort to violence was an offence.
The HC bench had pronounced the order on a plea moved by the 22-year-old Patidar leader contending that his suggestion to "kill four-five policemen instead of committing suicide" to a Surat-based PAAS member Vipul Desai on October 3 does not amount to sedition.
The Ahmedabad Crime Branch on October 21 charged Hardik and other members of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) Chirag, Dinesh, Ketan, Alpesh and Amrish Patel in the case of sedition and waging war against the State government.
However, a PAAS leader Amul Patel, whose name was not mentioned in the FIR as an accused but in the transcript of phone interception, has also challenged the Crime Branch's action, apprehending his arrest.
The six people were booked under IPC Sections 121 (waging war against the government), 124 (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity between different communities) and 153-B (assertions prejudicial to national integrity).
The probe agency had also put transcripts of various telephonic conversations and speeches of PAAS members and Hardik, wherein they had allegedly instigated the agitators of Patel community to wage war against the government.
The complaint was lodged against PAAS leaders for allegedly inciting violence on August 25-26 that erupted in several districts after Hardik's massive rally held in Ahmedabad on August 25.