Don’t let Azam Khan go free: AG Venugopal to SC over Bulandshahr gangrape remark
The attorney general was addressing the bench that will decide if a person in a position of power can be held accountable for making public statements in rape or criminal cases.india Updated: Jul 31, 2017 20:24 IST
Attorney general KK Venugopal called for the criminal prosecution of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan for terming the gangrape of a mother and daughter in Bulandshahr last year, a “political conspiracy”.
Khan’s “atrocious” statement, made days after the rape in August, was an attempt to obstruct a police officer from discharging his public duty, and he should not have been exonerated, Venugopal told a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra.
The attorney general was addressing the bench that will decide if a person in a position of power can be held accountable for making public statements in rape or criminal cases.
The top court took up the issue after the family of the rape survivors moved SC seeking action against Khan for his comments.
Initially, Khan denied making the statement and blamed the media for misinterpretation. However, in December, he tendered an unconditional apology, which the court accepted. But it expanded the scope of the petition to determine whether victims of crime have the fundamental right or protection of life and personal liberty.
When Venugopal made his submission, justice Misra told him that Khan had offered an apology full of remorse. “The word remorse is deeper than apology. It means the person will not repeat,” the judge explained.
The law officer pointed out that Khan was a repeat offender and flashed the newspaper report to highlight his statements against the Indian Army, which ensued in a sedition case against him.
“You cannot let his tongue run lose. He cannot be exonerated for obstructing the course of justice,” Venugopal said.
“He made the statement (on Bulandshahr rape) as a cabinet minister. Everybody knows that the local police is directly under the control of the state government. The implication of his statement was that the mother and daughter were branded as liars. Thankfully the case is with the CBI or else the police would have filed a closure report. His statement was contrary to the rule of law,” Venugopal submitted, adding that the former UP minister be charged under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The provision penalises a person obstructing a public officer from carrying out his official duty. It is punishable with three months of imprisonment or Rs 500 fine or both.
The bench said a formal application should be filed, to which senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court in the matter, agreed and said, “This principle (of whether people holding a constitutional post can make statements influencing criminal cases) needs to be settled.”
Salve, who has also suggested certain points for the court’s consideration, asked, “Shouldn’t such a minister be disqualified from the legislature? This is becoming endemic in our country.”
The court will hear the matter next on October 5 after it asked Venugopal to go through the suggestions made by Salve and senior counsel Fali Nariman, who is also assisting the court in the matter.