The Supreme Court Friday restrained Rajasthan Police from
arresting sociologist Ashis Nandy against whom FIRs have been
filed for making uncharitable comments about Scheduled Castes,
Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes but asked him to be
careful in his statements.
A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and
Justice Vikramajit Sen also issued notice to the central and
Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Bihar governments on
Nandy's petition seeking to restrain any action on the spate of
FIRs filed against him. The notice is returnable in four weeks.
Staying his arrest, the court, however, said that Nandy had no
licence to make statements that hurt others.
"Advise your client that he has no right to make such comments,"
Chief Justice Kabir told counsel Aman Lekhi appearing for Nandy.
Told that Nandy did not intend to denigrate any section of
society, the court said: "Forget about intentions, and be
When Lekhi asked if law could penalize an idea, Chief Justice
Kabir snapped back: "Yes, why not. When it (an idea) is not in
Asked whether Nandy was supporting the idea articulated by him, he
said: "It is not a question of an idea but the way it is said."
"Each person has his ideas, but it should not disturb others. In
the context of an idea, you can't go on making such remarks,"
Chief Justice Kabir said, adding that statements have to be made
"in a responsible manner".
The FIRs were filed after Nandy, speaking at a panel discussion at
the Jaipur Literary Festival Jan 26, contended that "corruption"
was a leveller in India, and that long-deprived sections of
society were turning to it too in a bid to wrest power and wealth
forcibly from an established elite.
As Lekhi contended what has been attributed to Nandy was an idea
not intended to denigrate any particular section of the society,
the Chief Justice pointed to an advocate, from a weaker section of
society, seeking permission to assist the court as he was
aggrieved by Nandy's comments. This advocate was asked to file his
application and the court would consider it.
Lekhi came in for some drubbing from the court when he submitted
that a "hysteria is being created".
Not pleased with the submission, the court asked him: "Who is
saying it? Don't say it."
"Has your client asked you to say it? Why are you saying it," the
To buttress his plea, Lekhi said that in a mature democracy there
has to be some space for contrary views.
The counsel said that under the law that was only one FIR of an
incident, but in this case FIRs have been filed in several places
including Jaipur, Nashik, Raipur and Patna, adding that in one
instance, a sedition case has been booked against Nandy.
Nandy had moved the apex court seeking quashing of a FIR against
him by the Rajasthan government for making some controversial
remarks against the marginalized sections of the society at the
just concluded Jaipur literary festival.
Nandy, who has been charged with an offence attracting punishment
for criminal intimidation and Section 3(1)(x) of Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, has
urged the court to issue necessary guidelines to ascertain what
constitute an offence under the latter provision.
He has also sought guidelines by the apex court so this provision
could not be "misused to hamper freedom of speech and expression
and also to set out the circumstances in which alone the police
officials may investigate and initiate penal action under the said
The offence under Section 3(1)(x) is non-bailable and even
anticipatory bail is denied under Section 18 of the act, the
Nandy has contended that the registration of the FIR by Rajasthan
Police was "an abuse of law" and he was denied his fundamental
rights under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, because of
the clamour for his immediate arrest from important political
personalities including Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and
SC/ST chairman P.L. Punia.