The Supreme Court today rebuked the Gujarat government for initiating criminal proceedings against political analyst Ashis Nandy for writing an article in a national daily allegedly having communal overtones.
"Nothing in the article is objectionable," a Bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir said while restraining the Narender Modi Government from arresting Nandy.
"Concerned authorities and officials of the Gujarat Government will not take any steps to arrest Nandy in respect of the proceedings arising from the FIR registered in relation to the article," it said.
However, hours after the order was pronounced, Nandy's counsel Rakesh Khanna and Gaurang Kanth informed the bench that the scholar has been served with a summons notice by the Gujarat Police to appear before Satellite police station officials in Ahmedabad on 8th July.
Taking their submission on record, the Bench cancelled the summons and said "Any further summons issued against Nandy in future relating to the case will stand quashed".
During the hearing, the Bench disapproved the prosecution of 71-year-old scholar for the article saying "there is no ground for harassing a journalist".
"Let him live in peace. You (Gujarat) are prosecuting this man for his article," the Bench said referring to the article on post-assembly election analysis.
"There are worst things happening in this country," it said expressing anguish over the state government's move to register an FIR on a private complaint.
The apex court was also critical of V K Saxena, President of the Ahmedabad-based NGO, National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), on whose complaint the FIR was registered under section 153A (promoting communal disharmony) and 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) of Indian Penal Code.
"What is the grievance of the complainant. How does it (article) bother him. Is he a staunch nationalist," the Bench observed, questioning the motive behind filing the complaint.
"People coming from the land of Gandhiji have become so intolerant that they can't even tolerate an article," the Bench, also comprising Justice G S Singhvi observed.
"They look for a soft target to catch but not even a single politician or small municipal councillors are caught ...," the Bench further said refusing to consider the submission of Gujarat government counsel Hemantika Wahi that the investigation into the case was at initial stage.
The apex court was hearing the petition filed by Nandy against the order of the Delhi High Court which had refused to provide him an interim protection against arrest.
The High Court will now hear his writ petition in which he has sought quashing of the FIR.
In the FIR, it was alleged that Nandy's article related to assembly election results disturbed communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
However, Nandy contended that the FIR was registered out of malafide intention and oblique motive.
He said that the FIR was aimed at penalising and depriving him of expressing his bonafide views.
His counsel said that the state government has picked up a line from the article published in a national daily and accused him of promoting communal disharmony.