Sedition case: Azam Khan has not mended his ways, says Attorney-General Venugopal

By calling the brutal crime a “political conspiracy”, Mr. Khan chose to brand the victims as “liars”, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal says

July 31, 2017 07:12 pm | Updated 10:23 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file picture of Azam Khan.

A file picture of Azam Khan.

Trouble may be brewing for Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan with his controversial statement terming the brutal Bulandshahr gangrape a “political conspiracy” coming back to haunt him.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal highlighted that Mr. Khan had not mended his ways even after tendering an apology to the Supreme Court and was recently booked for sedition for allegedly making statements against the Army.

The Attorney-General said, by calling the brutal crime a “political conspiracy,” Mr. Khan chose to brand the victims — a woman and her 14-year-old daughter — as “liars.”

Mr. Venugopal, who was called by the Bench to assist the court, said the "atrocious" statement made by Mr. Khan as a serving Minister in Uttar Pradesh was actually a message to the police to close its investigation. The Attorney-General submitted that this had certainly amounted to an obstruction of justice punishable under Section 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) of the Indian Penal Code.

“He was actually directing the police with his statement to close the matter... fortunately, the CBI took over the case,” Mr. Venugopal submitted.

When the court reminded Mr. Venugopal that Mr. Khan had apologised for his words, the top government law officer retorted, saying “his apology does not express remorse.”

Mr. Venugopal then pointed out that the alleged seditious comments against the Army was made shortly after he apologised to this court. "Now, I am not speaking for the government, but he cannot be allowed by this court to be seen as obstructing justice and having got away with just an apology. He cannot be exonerated like that,” the Attorney-General submitted.

At this juncture, senior advocate Harish Salve, the court's amicus curiae, submitted that the court “should set the principle that people who hold constitutional offices should not shoot from the hip like this.”

The court told Mr. Salve, if required, to file an application before it to initiate criminal action against Mr. Khan.

The discussion dominated a court hearing originally meant for framing questions of law on issue whether a high functionary of a State, like a government Minister, can make comments which potentially create distrust in the minds of victims of a crime about the fairness of the ongoing investigation.

Senior advocate Fali Nariman, another amicus curiae in the case, submitted that a law like a 'Civil Rights Act' should be framed to empower citizens to agitate their fundamental rights in court against violation by other private individuals or corporates.

He said the fundamental rights enshrined in Part Three of the Constitution provide remedy against violations by the State but not against fellow citizens or private bodies. Mr. Nariman said the court should stretch the extent of Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) to include action against individuals or direct the government to frame a separate Civil Rights Act.

The Bulandshahr rape case first came to court when the victims' family made an emotional appeal for justice. They had recounted their story of how they were raped by a gang in front of the latter's father on the deserted National Highway 91 between Noida and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the dead of the night on July 29, last year.

The family had said that Mr. Khan's statement had “substantially outraged the modesty of the rape victims,” especially the minor daughter.

Next hearing in the case is on October 5.

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