In a major relief to the general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Pravin Togadia, the Bombay High Court stayed the criminal proceedings initiated against him by a metropolitan magistrate for allegedly making an inflammatory speech in March 2003.
Justice Rekha Sondur-Baldota stayed the proceedings initiated by a metropolitan magistrate on January 7, 2005. Proceedings have been stayed till final disposal of the petition.
Additional public prosecutor, Usha Kejariwal sought time to take instructions from the police department.
Togadia filed a petition in the high court seeking quashing of the FIR and the criminal proceedings stating that his speech did not mean to bring disharmony.
Togadia had addressed a public meeting on March 16, 2003 at Nardulla Tank, Prabhadevi.
The meeting was organised by the Rashtriya Vichar Manch. After the meeting was over, it was alleged that Togadia attempted to promote disharmony amongst the Hindus, Muslims and Christians through this speech.
An FIR was registered in September 27, 2003, by one Vivekanand Bhosale under sections 153A, 153B, 298 and 505 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Niteen Pradhan, Togadia’s counsel, argued that the police did not even conduct a preliminary inquiry before registering the FIR.
“He has only spoken about historical facts,” Pradhan argued. Togadia’s petition alleges that the FIR was filed following pressure from social activist Teesta Setalvad.
Setalvad told HT, “I was one of the activists who had urged action against the speech. We believe that the utterance of the venom of the kind that Togadia and his ilk specialise in destroy the fabric of tolerance and mutual respect in our society.”