The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the arrest of Ashis Nandy for the controversial remark he made at the Jaipur Literature Festival on January 26 but made it clear to the sociologist that his statements should not “disturb” others.
A Bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices Anil R. Dave and Vikramajit Sen granted the stay on a writ petition filed by Dr. Nandy challenging registration of First Information Reports against him in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Bihar. The Bench issued notice, returnable in four weeks, to the Centre and the three States. In the meantime he should not be arrested, it said.
Even as counsel Aman Lekhi began his submissions and asked the court whether a law could penalise an idea, the CJI shot back: “Why not? When an idea is not in the public interest, he can be. Whatever your intent, you can’t go on making statements. Tell your client he has no licence to make such comments.” It was not a question of an idea being punished but the manner in which it was made. “Every person has his own idea, but it should not disturb others. Statements are to be made in a responsible manner. Why do you say something which you don’t intend?”
When counsel said the FIRs were registered in several places, the CJI said: “Because the statement affects people all over. When Mr. Lekhi said a hysteria had been created, the CJI asked him: “Who is creating hysteria? Who is the author of the statement? Please say what your client has instructed you to say.” To this, Mr. Lekhi said Dr. Nandy had already tendered an apology.
In his petition, Dr. Nandy said: “During the session on January 26, the topic of corruption in India was raised and Mr. Tarun Tejpal brought out the issue that perhaps corruption in our country is a great class equaliser as India is an extremely class-ridden society and there is a great disparity between the rich and the poor
Based upon the context and in order to highlight the fact that the underprivileged were often subject to harsh scrutiny, limelight and statutory actions unlike the elite class, he expressed his point of view with great degree of humanity and said: “It will be a very undignified and vulgar statement on his part but the fact is that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes and as long as this is the case the Indian Republic will survive.”
Dr. Nandy said that when the organisers told him that his remark might be misunderstood, he immediately apologised.