The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday quashed a first information report filed against Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga for allegedly making provocative statements against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Bagga had been arrested by the Punjab Police on May 6 under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Bagga’s arrest had led to a three-way tussle on his custody between the Delhi, Haryana and Punjab police forces, followed by a midnight hearing at a judge’s home on May 7. He was later released and given protection from arrest by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Sunny Singh Ahluwalia, a leader of the Punjab unit of the Aam Aadmi Party, had filed a complaint alleging that Bagga had threatened Kejriwal during a protest outside the chief minister’s home on March 30. Bagga had allegedly told television channels that “he would not let Kejriwal live”.
On Wednesday, Justice Anoop Chitkara said in his order that there “is nothing in the speech which points towards petitioner’s intention to divide the communities on regional and religious lines”. Bagga’s comments also do not fall within the purview of hate speech, the judge noted.
“Being a political activist and an official spokesperson of a political party, as a shadow of the incumbent, it was well within his rights to make the people aware of the response of an opposite political leader,” the order said.
The judge said an offence can be made out only if the comments are “full of hatred” or if derogatory and vicious statements are made to gain political mileage.
Senior Advocates RS Rai and Chetan Mittal, representing Bagga, had argued that Ahluwalia intentionally concealed the actual statement made by the BJP leader and highlighted only parts of it to get the FIR filed, The Indian Express reported.
“There is nothing in the statement which would constitute any offence,” they added. “There is no intimidation or incitement to violence…the statement has to be appreciated in the context in which it is made. It is only intended to convey that till Kejriwal apologises for his statement which was considered objectionable by the petitioner, protests and demonstrations against him would continue.”
Bagga had made the comments at a protest held by members of the BJP after Kejriwal commented that the makers of the movie The Kashmir Files should release it on video streaming platform YouTube so that everyone could watch it free of cost.
HC quashes FIR against Kumar Vishwas
On Wednesday, Justice Chitkara also quashed a separate FIR filed by the Punjab Police against former Aam Aadmi Party leader and poet Kumar Vishwas for alleging that Kejriwal was willing to take the support of separatists during the 2017 state polls.
According to Vishwas, Kejriwal had said that he would either become the chief minister of Punjab or the “first prime minister of an independent nation”, in an apparent reference to Khalistan. The Khalistan movement is a separatist campaign to create a country for Sikhs by seceding from India.
On April 12, the Rupnagar Police had booked Vishwas under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including promoting enmity between groups, criminal conspiracy.
In a petition filed in the High Court, Vishwas had argued that the FIR had been filed out of malafide intention and that the case was an abuse of the process of law. The poet had contended that the FIR was filed with a motive to settle political scores.
Vishwas pointed out that he had made the alleged statements in Mumbai but the case had been registered in Punjab, where the Aam Aadmi Party is in power.