Day 7 ArgumentsAzam Khan – Freedom of Speech and Expression
July 21st 2017
In the previous hearing, the court had remarked that a five judge constitution bench might be formed in order to decide if a minister can make comments contrary to government policy.
Today, Attorney General Mr. K.K. Venugopal, claimed that Mr. Khan’s ‘atrocious’ statement, made days after the incident, was an attempt to obstruct a police officer from discharging his public duty, and he should not have been exonerated. He questioned whether a high functionary can make comments which potentially create distrust in the minds of the victims of a crime about the fairness of the on-going investigation. Justice Dipak Misra pointed out that Mr. Khan had offered an unconditional apology. Mr. Venugopal said that Mr. Khan made statements, branding the victims as liars, as a cabinet minister. He argued that the statement is contrary to the rule of law and he should not be exonerated for obstructing the course of justice. He pointed out Mr. Khan also made seditious comments against the Army shortly after his apology, proving that he was in the habit of making such remarks. Calling him a repeat offender, Mr. Venugopal insisted that he be charged under Section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Mr. Nariman argued that a Civil Rights Act must be framed to enable citizens to protect their fundamental rights against violation by other private individuals or companies. Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution provide remedies against violations by the State but not against fellow citizens or private bodies. He contended that the Court should expand Article 21 to include action against individuals, and asked the Court to direct the government to frame a separate Civil Rights Act.