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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

HC grants bail to Haryana farmer booked for sedition, says free speech is foundation of a strong democracy

The farmer, Dalbir Singh, had been arrested for sedition, among other charges, in May over alleged objectionable speeches.

Written by Jagpreet Singh Sandhu | Chandigarh |
Updated: August 4, 2021 1:55:54 am
According to two FIRs filed in the case, the speeches could have resulted in caste-based division and were a threat to peace and harmony.

Granting bail to a farmer arrested for alleged derogatory remarks against Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and other BJP leaders, Punjab and Haryana High Court has observed that “freedom of speech is a fundamental right and makes a foundation for a strong democracy”.

The farmer, Dalbir Singh, had been arrested for sedition, among other charges, in May over alleged objectionable speeches. According to two FIRs filed in the case, the speeches could have resulted in caste-based division and were a threat to peace and harmony. Singh was arrested days after the second FIR was registered, prompting him to move HC.

The first FIR on February 22, 2017, was filed under OPC Sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, language, etc.). The second FIR registered on May 24, invoked Sections 294 (obscene acts and songs), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), and 500 (defamation).

Counsel for the petitioner, advocates Randeep Surjewala, and R Kartikeya, contended that it is a case of false implication, and the petitioner was only exercising his fundamental right to protest. The petitioner has right to criticise the functioning of the state, they said.

The state counsel submitted that the petitioner, if granted bail, would indulge in similar activities and will create a law and order problem.

In the bail order, Justice Avneesh Jhingan said: “While dealing with petitions for grant of regular bail, this court has no occasion to consider the merits of allegations in detail. Suffice to say that freedom of speech is a fundamental right and makes a foundation for a strong democracy. At this stage must hasten to add that embargo to freedom of speech is prescribed in Article 19 of the Constitution itself….”

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