New Delhi | A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice R K Agrawal today recused itself from hearing the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy against the order of an Assam trial court issuing a non-bailable warrant against him for failing to appear before it in a case of alleged hate speech.
The bench, also comprising Justice Amitava Roy, referred the matter to another bench saying, If it has to come before another bench, why apply mind. List it before another bench on June 22. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who was appearing for Swamy, then asked the bench In the meantime, what should the man do if there is an order that he be arrested and produced before the judge.
To this, the bench said that till June 22 nothing will happen but refused to pass an interim order. We cannot pass any interim order, it said. However, it allowed Swamy to mention it before Chief Justice H L Dattu after Jethmalani sought permission. You have the liberty to mention it before the Chief Justice, the bench said.
Earlier, on May 21, a judge of the apex court had recused from hearing his plea challenging the validity of some penal provisions relating to hate speech. The apex court was hearing Swamy’s plea against the order of an Assam trial court issuing an non bailable warrant (NBW) against him for failing to appear before it on March 19 in a case of alleged hate speech.
The NBW was issued on June 1 by a court in Karimganj on a complaint accusing him of allegedly delivering an inflammatory address on March 15 at Kaziranga University. The Karimganj court had ordered that the arrest warrant be complied with on or before June 30. The BJP leader had also sought a stay on the order of Additional Judicial Magistrate summoning him as an accused in the case. In his petition, Swamy had said Karimganj has a majority Bengali-speaking population with close ties to Sylhet in Bangladesh. It is isolated from the rest of Assam and is dominated by illegal Bangladeshi migrants who are hostile to Assamese speaking majority of the rest of Assam; and the petitioner has apprehensions for his safety when he appears in Court there.
The instant Writ Petition…comprehends a challenge to the vires of Sections 153, 153A, 153B (dealing with offence of rioting), 295A (outraging religious feelings), 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings) and 505 (making a statement to cause incitement) of the IPC, all of which deal with the offences popularly labelled as ‘hate speech’.
Under the law, hate speech is a speech, gesture or conduct, writing or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by protected individual or group.
Swamy had alleged that in the past few years, these sections have been invoked against him, sometimes malafide and maliciously, by various authorities to penalise him for his clear-headed extensive research and his ideological beliefs and thereby make him conform to the norms of certain special ideological and religious groups.
At least five recent FIRs or summons have been issued against him from Delhi, Mumbai, Karimganj, Mohali in Punjab and Thrissur in Kerala, for presumed hate speech, he claimed.
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