[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]F[/dropcap]reedom of Speech is a right enshrined in the Constitution. Every citizen has the right to express his or her views freely, without any fear or favor. Therefore it came as a big surprise when the Centre today termed it as “not maintainable” and opposed in the Supreme Court the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy challenging constitutional validity of certain IPC provisions on hate speech and writing.
…in the “past few years”, these sections have been invoked against me, “sometimes malafide and maliciously, by various authorities to penalize me for my clearheaded extensive research and ideological beliefs and thereby make me conform to the norms of certain special ideological and religious groups…
– Subramanian Swamy
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the bench comprising justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel that the plea is not a “writ petition but a personal interest litigation” as NBW has been already been issued against him with regard to alleged hate speeches.
“He is aggrieved because a non-bailable warrant (NBW) has been issued against him by a court with regard to his hate speeches. He is being personaly prosecuted for an offence and, hence his plea is infact a personal interest litigation,” he said, noting that the plea was not maintainable.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he bench then asked Swamy whether converting the warrant from non-bailable to bailable one would suffice his cause or not. Swamy vehmently opposed the contention of the Solicitor General and said that his plea has already been considered by the previous bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi which has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of 156(3) of IPC and he is not on the issue of bailable warrant.
“The previous bench of the Supreme Court had in its last order asked all the parties to file their affidavits with regard to the matter and it has agreed to examine the provision of IPC constitutionally,” he said.
He argued that his plea for quashing of NBW was already before the Guwahati High Court.
The Solicitor General intervened and contended that Swamy can also raise the same issue of constitutional validity before the high court which is seized of his NBW issue.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]o this, the bench asked Swamy whether he has challenged the provisions before the high court or not and asked, “Why can’t you raise the issue there?”
“How many high courts should I go to. Across the country, FIRs are being lodged against me by several state governments. This is a question of my fundamental right. This court is an approrpiate forum to examine the validity of the provisions of the IPC,” Swamy said, adding that he has not challenged the validity before the high court.
Swamy also sought transfer of matter to the bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, saying the previous bench headed by him was ready to examine the constitutional validity of the provisions.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he apex court was hearing Swamy’s plea against the order of an Assam trial court which issued an NBW against him for failing to appear before it on March 19, last year in a case of alleged hate speech.
To this, the bench said that due to change of roster the matter has come before it and granted time to Swamy to think over the issue of raising it before the high court while posting the case for further hearing on July 11.
On July 2, last year, the apex court had stayed the execution of a non-bailable warrant issued against him by the Assam court for allegedly delivering a hate speech at a university there.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]wamy, who is facing a court case in Karimganj in Assam for allegedly delivering an inflammatory address at Kaziranga University, had sought relief from the apex court in the case.
He has also challenged the constitutional validity of Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the Indian Penal Code.
Swamy has alleged that in the “past few years”, these sections have been invoked against him, “sometimes malafide and maliciously, by various authorities to penalize him for his clearheaded 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 has said.
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