SC grants protection from arrest to AAP leader Sanjay Singh in alleged hate speech case in UP

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New Delhi, Feb 9 (PTI) The Supreme Court Tuesday granted protection from arrest to Aam Aadmi Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh in alleged hate speech case lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh but cautioned that he “cannot divide the society on lines of castes and religion”.

The apex court made it clear however that UP Police is not precluded from seeking sanction from Rajya Sabha Chairperson to prosecute Singh in the cases.

It also issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and sought its response on two pleas of Singh seeking clubbing and quashing of FIRs lodged against him after his press conference on August 12 last year at which he alleged that the state government was favouring a certain class of society.

During the hearing, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R S Reddy told the counsels for Singh, “You cannot divide the society on lines of castes and religion”.

The bench said, “In the meantime, we direct that the petitioner be not arrested in Crime No...under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups), 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505(2) (Statements conducing to public mischief), IPC registered at Police Station Hazratganj, Lucknow.” It directed the state government to file its counter affidavit within two weeks.

A trial court in Lucknow had on February 2, issued a Non-Bailable Warant (NBW) against Singh in the FIR lodged at Hazratganj police station and fixed the matter for hearing on February 17.

The bench said that looking into the nature of the issue which has been raised in the present case, the matter needs to be finally decided on the next date and listed petitions filed by Singh in the third week of March, 2021.

Senior advocate Vivek Tankha and advocate Sumeer Sodhi, appearing for Singh, said that no procedures were followed by the police in lodging the case and sanction to prosecute the Rajya Sabha MP was not taken.

Tankha submitted that the sanction granted by the Governor refers to Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) whereas sanction ought to have been granted under Section 196, CrPC.

He further submitted that Singh being Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, permission of the Chairman of Rajya Sabha ought to have been obtained before prosecuting the petitioner.

The bench said it would not get into the sanction aspect at this moment but that does not mean that no offence has been made out against Singh.

The top court also said that it was issuing notice limited to the question as to whether the FIRs registered against the petitioner in different districts of the state be clubbed with FIR registered at Police Station Hazratganj at Lucknow.

On February 2, the top court had refused to grant protection to Singh against whom a non-bailable warrant (NBW) was issued by the trial court on an FIR lodged in Lucknow.

The AAP leader has moved the apex court seeking clubbing and quashing of multiple FIRs lodged against him in various districts of Uttar Pradesh after the press conference, saying they have been “maliciously instituted to unleash political vendetta”.

“In the said press conference, the petitioner (Singh) had merely raised certain social issues, namely neglect and apathy of the government towards a certain class of society,” the plea has said.

He alleged that after the press conference, multiple FIRs were registered against him at the instance of BJP's members at various police stations in different districts of the state.

Singh said they are “manifestly attended with mala fides and have been maliciously instituted to unleash political vendetta against the petitioner and to harass him”.

He further claimed that content in the FIRs is same verbatim and they have been filed across several districts across more than 700 kilometres in Uttar Pradesh on the same day within a span of a few hours.

Singh said he is aware of eight FIRs filed in eight districts including at Lucknow, Sant Kabir Nagar, Khiri, Bagpat, Muzaffarnagar, Basti and at Aligarh.

In a separate petition, Singh has also challenged the January 21 order of the Allahabad High Court which refused to quash the FIR in Lucknow. PTI SJK MNL SA