The Gujarat High Court today held that “a prima facie case of sedition” was made out against the Patel quota agitationâ€™s leader Hardik Patel booked by Surat police for advising a youth to “kill the police rather than committing suicide.”
“Prima facie, it could be said that the words spoken or the statement alleged to have been made by the applicant in the presence of the mediaâ€¦would amount to exhortation to the public,” Justice J B Pardiwala said.
“â€¦more particularly (it would amount to an exhortation to) the members of Patel community to resort to violence or create public disorder with a view to subverting the government by law established in the state of Gujarat,” the HC said refusing to entertain a plea seeking quashing of the FIR.
“The applicant may not have stated in so many words that the members of Patel community should overthrow the lawfully established government of Gujarat by force or violence, but when the attack is on the police force which is one of the most important agencies of the state government, then a prima facie case under section 124-A of IPC could be said to be made out,” the order said.
Hardikâ€™s father Bharat Patel had filed a petition seeking to quash the FIR filed against his son.
“The demand for reservation for the members of the Patel community by itself is not an offence. It is open to the members of the Patel community to seek reservation, if available in law or if the state government, by way of a policy decision, deems fit to provide,” said the HC.
“It is also open to demand reservation by peaceful means, ceaselessly fighting public opinion that might be against them and opposing those who desired the continuance of the existing order of the society and the government,” added the HC order.
“What is not permissibleâ€¦is any act which has the effect of bringing or which attempts to bring into hatredness or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law,” the HC held
Surat police had also invoked the charges under sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505-2 (to incite one community against another) and 506 (criminal intimidation) under IPC.
However, the High Court on Tuesday quashed these three offences, holding that the police force cannot be termed as `communityâ€™, as submitted by the prosecution.
“Although it could be said that the members of the Patel community have been provoked, but such provocation has nothing to do with any other religion, race or linguistic or regional group or community. The police force of the state cannot be brought within the purview of the term community,” the judge said.
On Hardikâ€™s defence that his statement at best reflected his injured feelings towards the police force, the HC noted that the law and order situation had deteriorated to a considerable extent due to the agitators and “many innocent persons lost their lives which included a police officer”.
“Many police stations, public buses, were set on fire.
Extensive damage was caused to the government properties.
“In this background, it would be appropriate to infer at this primary stage from the words spoken by the applicant that the same was intended and it did bring the government in the contempt with likelihood of eruption of violence and public disorder,” said the HC.
Hardik, the 22-year-old Patel leader, had on October 3 allegedly advised a Surat-based youth from his community to kill the policemen rather than ending his own life.
“If you have so much courageâ€¦then go and kill a couple of policemen. Patels never commit suicide,” Hardik allegedly told Vipul Desai who had announced that he would commit suicide in support of the quota agitation.
Hardik had visited Desaiâ€™s house accompanied by a team of a news channel which broadcast the conversation later.
The sedition case was filed by Surat police almost 15 days after his controversial statement.
Ahmedabad police too have filed a sedition case against Hardik and he is now in the custody of city crime branch.