SC sends Hardik Patel's plea against sedition charge to another bench

New Delhi: 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 today.

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 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.

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.

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