25 Mar : In a blow to BJP Lok Sabha candidate Varun Gandhi, the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday rejected his plea for quashing of an FIR filed against him for his alleged anti-Muslim speeches in Pilibhit.
In its order, a division bench comprising justices Imtiyaz Murtaza and S C Nigam said, "the petition stands dismissed".In his petition, 29-year-old Gandhi had challenged the FIR filed on 17th March at Barkheda Police Station under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act.
The charges entail a maximum punishment of three years jail term or fine or both.
Asked if Gandhi could be taken into custody, his counsel Gopal Chaturvedi said outside the court that "arrest is a matter of satisfaction of the investigating officer".
Noting that the Delhi High Court has granted him anticipatory bail, he said, the investigating officer "has to be satisfied that the arrest is necessary. He doesn’t have to arrest merely because he has the power to arrest or it is a cognisable offence. He need not arrest at all".
Chaturvedi said Gandhi "is free to move anywhere in the country".
On the High Court order, he said, "the court was primarily of the view that since you have already approached one court for a similar relief, why should you approach the Allahabad High Court for the same relief".
On whether the High Court order will be challenged in the Supreme Court, Chaturvedi said, "I am sure they will, although it may not be necessary as far as the proceedings are concerned.
"But I am sure when a petition is being filed, then everything that has been said against Mr Gandhi will be questioned before the Supreme Court," he said.
Gandhi, in his petition, had alleged that the video footage of a public meeting, on the basis of which the Election Commission had taken the action, "had been tampered with" and did not contain his voice.
The grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi had claimed that the FIR, which was lodged nine days after he made the speeches, was "a part of a political conspiracy" to ruin his political career and tarnish his "secular image".