The Supreme Court said today that it will hear on August 4 a plea by BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari against an order of the Calcutta High Court, which granted permission to the West Bengal police to register an FIR against him, if an offence was made out, in a complaint accusing him of promoting enmity between different groups.
A single judge of the high court, in earlier orders in September 2021 and December 2022, had said no FIRs shall be registered and no coercive steps can be taken against Mr Adhikari, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly. The single judge had passed the orders on Mr Adhikari’s petitions claiming frivolous cases were being filed against him ever since he had quit the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress and joined the BJP.
On July 20, a division bench of the high court had dealt with a plea which alleged that Mr Adhikari has committed an offence under section 153-A (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 (IPC).
In its order, the division bench said the petition should be treated as a complaint to the police authority and the state police shall exercise powers in accordance with the law and carefully examine whether the acts narrated in it disclose any offence under section 153-A of the IPC.
“If they are so satisfied, they will register the first information report under section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” the high court had said.
Mr Adhikari has moved the Supreme Court, challenging the July 20 order of the division bench of the high court. The matter was mentioned on Thursday before a bench of Justices SK Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia for urgent listing.
The counsel representing Mr Adhikari told the top court that he was protected by the September 6, 2021, and December 8, 2022, orders of the high court according to which no further FIRs could be registered against him.
Several FIRs have been registered against Mr Adhikari, the counsel said and referred to the July 20 order of the division bench of the high court.
“It (Mr Adhikari’s plea) is coming up on August 4,” the bench said.
Urging the bench to list the plea for hearing on July 31, the counsel said Mr Adhikari is in a “precarious position”.
The bench said it would not be possible to list the matter on July 31 since the matter has already been listed for hearing on August 4. It said the plea shall not be deleted from the list of August 4.
In its order, the division bench of the high court had said, “The first information reports so registered, if any, along with his views and result of investigation, if any, shall be embodied in a report to be prepared by the Director General of Police and to be furnished before this court on the returnable date of this application.”
It said Mr Adhikari’s arrest or any other coercive action against him can only be made in terms of the report if leave is granted by the high court.
The plea before the high court had said the state police authority was not registering any complaint or FIR against Mr Adhikari because of the orders passed in September 2021 and December 2022 by a single judge in two separate writ applications.
In its order, the division bench had referred to Article 361 of the Constitution and said it grants immunity only to the President of India and the governor of a state from criminal prosecution.
“Now, if the interpretation of these two orders is that the respondent no. 3 has been given immunity equal to that of the President of India or the Governor of a State against criminal prosecution it would only be an absolutely erroneous interpretation of the said orders,” it had said.
The high court had said those two orders were not to be “interpreted as preventing registration of any criminal complaint or first information report against Adhikari for any subsequent event, act, transaction or facts which are not connected with the facts in issue in those two writ applications”.
On December 13, 2021, the Supreme Court had refused to interfere with the high court order which had restrained police from taking any coercive action against Mr Adhikari in criminal cases relating to him in West Bengal.
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