New Delhi: Giving relief to sociologist Ashis Nandy, the Supreme Court today stayed his arrest over alleged anti-Dalit remarks at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) but made it clear that he has no license to make such comments.
"He can't continue making statements like this. Whatever may be your intent you can't go on making statements," a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said.
"Tell your client he has no license to make such comments," the bench also comprising justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen told senior advocate Aman Lekhi who was appearing for 76-year-old Nandy.
The apex court issued notices and sought response of the Centre and the Rajasthan Government on a petition filed by Nandy seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against him for making the alleged statements at the literary festival.
"In the meantime, the petitioner (Nandy) will not be arrested in FIRs filed in connection with the statement made by him at the JLF, on January 26," the bench said.
The bench also issued notices to the Governments of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Bihar and sought their response within four weeks as FIRs, in connection with his statement, have been lodged against him in Raipur, Nasik and Patna respectively.
The order was passed after brief opposition from an advocate claiming to be member of Dalit community, who said the scholar's petition seeking protection from arrest should not be entertained.
However, the bench said his objection could only be considered once he files an application.
The bench told Nandy that statements "are to be made in a responsible manner".
"Why do you say something which you don't want to intend," the court said when Lekhi was trying to impress upon the bench that a person cannot be punished for expressing an idea.
Lekhi contended that several FIRs at different places cannot be lodged for the same offence, to which the bench said,"It affects people all over. Don't go into that type of submissions."
When he said that hysteria has been created, the bench shot back "who is creating (hysteria). Who is author of the statement. Please say what your client has instructed you to say."
Nandy's counsel said he had no intention of hurting the backward class and the scholar has already tendered an apology for his alleged statements.
His counsel commenced the submissions by saying "can law penalise an idea".
However, the bench said "we are not at all happy" and he should be careful.
During a panel discussion at the Jaipur meet, Nandy had allegedly said that people belonging to OBCs and SCs/STs were more corrupt.
Later, a case was registered against him under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Nandy, apprehending his arrest for the statements made by him, had moved the apex court yesterday for quashing of the FIRs against him.
Challenging the proceedings, he had submitted that he was facing a serious threat in the surcharged environment against him.
"Because of the surcharged environment against him and the rabid statements made by important political personalities, his physical safety is itself compromised and there is imminent threat of injury to him," his petition said.