Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Varun Gandhi and the National Security Act

The case of Varun Gandhi and his detention by the Mayawati Government is reaching a critical point. As a lot of people may be aware, Varun Gandhi, in a speech made some time back, sought to inflame people by speaking against the Muslim community. It is difficult to justify what he is stated to have said, since his speech was supposed to have been very provocative (and I am sure that people will point out that other people have made equally provocative or more provocative speeches and got off lightly, but that is a separate matter). He was condemned by wide sections of the press and political parties, and the Election Commission took note of what he had said (but did not have powers to do much about a speech).
However, what happened next was the troubling part. An FIR was lodged against him, and he was taken in custody. Next, the Mayawati Government stated that it would lodge a case under the National Security Act (meant to be used against terrorists or habitual dangerous criminals) against Varun. And soon enough, the UP Government filed a case against him, using the violence that happened when Varun was being lodged in the jail after surrender.
The NSA is an Act with strict provisions, such as "Under the provisions of the NSA, a person cannot get bail atleast for six months"; if this had happened, Varun would have had to remain in jail till elections are over. However, there is a right to appeal in the Supreme Court, and also the state advisory panel takes a decision on the persons against whom the NSA has been filed. In both cases, the Mayawati Government has not been able to justify the harsh measure used for what is basically a 'hate speech' (not to reduce the significance of what Varun had said, but there are criminals and terrorists against whom the NSA has not been applied). Here is an excerpt of what the state advisory panel stated:

The Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh did not apply its mind and violated cannons of natural justice in invoking National Security Act on BJP leader Varun Gandhi raising a question of bias, says the state advisory board which struck down the NSA against him. The Board said "there was non-application of mind and breach of rules of natural justice" by the authorities which raises a question of "bias" and "legal malafides" for invoking NSA against the 29-year-old BJP leader who was not supplied with the copy of the order and material, including the CD of the alleged hate speeches which were the basis for taking stringent action.

The board further points out that the District Magistrate, the competent authority to pass the NSA order, based these orders on 2 FIR's that were not filed by anybody else but the DM (to re-state, the DM filed 2 FIR's, and then used these 2 FIR's to show as evidence to pass the NSA orders).
Most people have no doubt that the reason that the DM passed the NSA order was so that the Mayawati Government, in order to shore up its secular credentials, could show that it was aggressive in protecting the interests of minorities. While I cannot condone the speech by Varun, it is equally hard to agree when somebody twists laws and justice for furthering their own agenda and scoring political points.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:13 PM