As the Centre prepares to take a final call on booking separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and writer Arundhati Roy for "seditious" speeches on Kashmir, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily dubbed the speeches “most unfortunate”.
However, the Congress wondered why an author’s views were getting so much importance.
Home Minister P Chidambaram — who had declared Delhi Police would examine if her speeches violated any law — is expected to speak his mind on the row in a day or so.
But government sources indicated a final call on whether to register a case against the two might be a political one. It would take into account the clamour for their arrest from parties such as the BJP as well as the view that punitive action did not augur well in a democratic setup.
Moily suggested the decision would not be taken in haste. “We deal with matters related to freedom of expression very cautiously,” he said.
At a seminar hours earlier, the law minister had suggested there were boundaries within which freedom had to be exercised. “Yes, there is freedom of speech... it can’t violate patriotic sentiments of the people.”
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari insisted far too much importance was being given to Roy’s speech, alluding to the BJP’s repeated demand for Roy’s and Geelani’s arrests. “I do not understand why exaggerated importance is given to her... It is erroneous and uncalled for. Is she an MP?”
Geelani has already made it clear that he is not worried —one more case against him would make no difference.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Roy said she had been accused of giving “hate speeches, of wanting to break up”.
“On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride,” she said, stressing she had only repeated what she and other commentators had said for years.