Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gujarat government intolerant, says Supreme Court

Bombay News.Net
Tuesday 1st July, 2008 (IANS)

The Supreme Court Tuesday rebuked the Gujarat government for being 'intolerant' and stalled its bid to arrest political commentator Ashis Nandy.

A vacation bench of Justice Altmas Kabir and Justice G.S. Singhvi
castigated the state government while hearing a lawsuit by Nandy, challenging his impending arrest by the Ahmedabad police on charges of inciting communal hatred by writing an article criticising Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

'If a journalist can't write what he wants to, who will write?,' asked the bench, expressing surprise over the state government's action of registering a criminal case against Nandy in May for writing an article published in the Times of India in January.

The bench asked Nandy's age and when told that he was 71 year old, it said: 'Then what investigation? You are prosecuting him for what? For writing an article? You cannot be so intolerant.'

'The people coming from the state of Mahatma Gandhi are behaving like this,' the bench rued.

Castigating the state's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for prosecuting a journalist, whom it described as a 'soft target', the bench asked: 'Have you ever caught a politician in this manner?'

'You catch a political leader and we will be with you,' the bench took a swipe at the government, represented by advocate Hemantika Wahi.

The bench Monday asked the state government if it was ready to pledge before it that it would not arrest Nandy for writing the column. Wahi promised the bench she would apprise it of the government's mind over the issue after taking instruction from it.

On Tuesday, she, however, sought to wriggle out of the situation by saying that the case registered against Nandy was different from those registered against some other scribes of the newspaper.

The bench, however, said that it does not want to keep Nandy's petition pending and directed the state government not to arrest Nandy. The bench also annulled summons issued to Nandy by a police station in Ahmedabad directing him to appear there on July 8.

Nandy, a commentator and social scientist of international renown, had held Gujarat's middle class responsible for the BJP's electoral victory in December polls.

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