In a democratic set up, a demand for “Hindu rashtra” does not amount to promoting enmity between religious groups, an accused in a case of allegedly communal sloganeering at an event at Jantar Mantar here argued before the Delhi High Court on Wednesday.
Preet Singh, one of the organisers of the event and presently in judicial custody, told Justice Mukta Gupta that he would not press his bail application if the court held a contrary opinion.
The judge reserved order on Singh’s bail plea after hearing his counsel as well as Delhi Police who opposed his release.
“I say with the greatest sense of responsibility, if the court holds that the demand (of Hindu rashtra) comes under Section 153 IPC, I will not press my bail application. In a democratic set up, if it (the demand) is promoting enmity, I will not press my bail,” said counsel Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing Singh.
The lawyer conceded to the accused giving an interview to media on this demand but contended that he was not part of the allegedly communal sloganeering.
“Nothing is said by my client which attracts Section 153A IPC. They are putting a case of Section 34 IPC (common intention) but the event ended at 11:45 am and sloganeering happened at 3:45 pm. My client was not present at the time,” he stated.
The court was also informed that the main organiser, lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, has already been granted bail.
“Sloganeering was the genesis of the FIR and I was not there,” the counsel stated.
Counsel Tarang Srivastava, representing the prosecution, stated that all accused persons acted in concert and Singh’s absence at the time of chanting of allegedly communal slogans would not absolve him from any liability.
He added that even in his interview, Singh referred to a specific community, which was “part of a series of same transaction.”
“The main organiser and the accused gave a common interview and said statements (attracting) Section 153A IPC. Thereafter, a co-accused gave another interview. Another, leads the chants and another uploads a Facebook live. All acted in furtherance of common intention,” the lawyer stated.
He added that all accused, except Upadhyay, were in custody and investigation in the case was ongoing.
On September 3, the court had issued notice on Preet Singh’s bail application and directed the police to file its status report.
Singh is accused of creating enmity between different groups and inciting the youth to propagate against a particular religion at the rally held at Jantar Mantar on August 8.
On August 27, Additional Sessions Judge Anil Antil had refused bail to Preet Singh, arrested by Delhi Police in the case, saying that right to assemble and freedom to air one’s thoughts are cherished under the Constitution; however, these are not absolute and have to be exercised with inherent reasonable restrictions.
The judge, on the basis of the material placed on record and submissions put forth by the prosecution, observed that prima facie there had been active participation by the accused in his individual capacity and also as the main organiser of the event itself.
The sessions court also noted that the event was conducted at Jantar Mantar in spite of the denial of permission by Delhi Police and in total disregard to COVID-19 protocol issued by the Union government.
It said given the stature of the accused, it was expected that Preet Singh ought to have exercised his authority, in these circumstances, and prevented participants from the airing such inflammatory opinions in the larger interest of the public and committee welfare.
“In addition, on prima facie analysis of the inflammatory and incendiary content of the speeches or interviews of the participants members of the event, comments especially those pertaining in express pejorative references to a religious community, and keeping in view that the applicant was an active organiser of the event, he cannot later absolve himself of the responsibility of the content or consequences arising therefrom,” the sessions court said.
It also held that being an active, main organiser of the event, the accused was an influential personality and there was a possibility of him interfering with the investigation and influencing the witnesses of the case, if released on bail.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com