SC seeks Gujarat's response on Hardik Patel's fresh plea

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a response from Gujarat government on a fresh plea of firebrand Patel quota agitation leader Hardik Patel challenging the High Court's decision declining to quash the sedition charge invoked against him and others in a case lodged for allegedly attacking places like police stations in the state.

Hardik Patel

A bench, comprising justices J S Khehar and R F Nariman, issued notice to the state government and fixed the appeal for hearing on January 5 along with his similar plea pending against another High Court order.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Hardik, said that the charges have wrongly been invoked against him as there was no conspiracy to wage war against the government and at best, it is the case of use of "intemperate language" which can be tried under some other penal provisions.

"There was nothing to show that I was challenging the state. The whole movement was for seeking reservation for Patidar community," he said, adding that "the language may be intemperate and he may be liable to some other offence but not for conspiring to wager war against the government".

"Words are not enough, there has to be actions beyond words," he said.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, opposed the contention saying that judiciary, police, police stations and politicians were targeted across the state and it cannot be said that there was no criminal action.

"Scores of police stations across the state were torched. One District judge was attacked. The house of the Home Minister was attacked. We have come to know about all this by tapping the phones...," Rohatgi said and referred to certain excerpts.

While issuing the notice to the state on Hardik's plea, the bench said "we cannot call it causal the attacks on police and judiciary".

The High Court had on December 1 granted partial relief to Hardik by dropping the treason charge against him for which death sentence is the maximum penalty but had declined to quash the sedition charge that is punishable up to life term.

The state police had in October lodged the second case against 22-year-old Hardik and five of his close aides on the charge of sedition and waging war against the government.

Later, Hardik, Chirag Patel, Dinesh Bambhaniya and Ketan Patel were arrested. They are currently behind the bars. Two other aides of Hardik, Amrish Patel and Alpesh Kathiriya, were not arrested as the high court had granted them interim protection.

The FIR against Hardik and five others under serious charges of sedition said that the young leader had allegedly instigated his community to kill policemen and adopt violent means to wage "war against Gujarat government".

The High Court ordered the removal of three IPC sections in the FIR--section 121 (waging war against government), 153-A (promoting enmity between different communities) and 153-B (assertions prejudicial to national integrity)--against Hardik and five of his close aides.

It, however, refused to drop IPC sections 124 (sedition) and 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against government), which attract punishment of life imprisonment or up to 10 years.

Earlier, the apex court did not grant any immediate relief to Hardik in another case challenging invocation of sedition charge for allegedly inciting persons to kill the police instead of commiting suicide.

The other case relates to an FIR lodged against Hardik 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. The Gujarat HC had refused to quash the sedition case against Hardik.

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).

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