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Sohrabuddin remark: Modi gets SC notice

ASSEMBLY ELECTION: GUJARAT GETS READY FOR PHASE-II

Press Trust Of India  |  New Delhi 

In fresh trouble for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court today issued him a contempt notice for allegedly justifying the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a suspected terrorist, in a fake encounter and rejected the state government's plea that the case be heard after the ongoing elections.
The court, however, exempted Modi from personal appearance.
"Let the notice be issued," a Bench comprising Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Dalveer Bhandari said at the end of a day-long hearing during which the Gujarat government opposed the plea for initiating contempt proceedings against Modi for his election speech.
Modi has already been slapped with a notice by the Election Commission on the issue.
The order was passed on the application filed by Rubabuddin Sheikh, brother of Sohrabuddin, who alleged that Modi's speech was an interference with justice and a gross contempt of court.
The Bench, however, refused to go into the other pleas which sought registration of an FIR and directions for handing over the investigation to the CBI and shifting of the case outside Gujarat.
The SC also asked the Gujarat High Court to dispose of the appeal filed against the grant of bail to Rajasthan IPS officer Dinesh MN and NK Amin, DSP with Gujarat Police, who were allegedly involved in the killing of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi.
The order seeking explanation from Modi came even as the Bench, on more than one occasion, had said it would be appropriate to put the matter for order on notice after the vacation in January next year.
However, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Gujarat government, refuted the allegation by the petitioner, saying it was simply an election speech and the court should not judge political speeches, which were generally rhetoric. He said the court should also not take any decision till the elections were over.
He said the Election Commission was also seized with two complaints on the issue of the speech given during the election rally and it would have a bearing on its proceedings.
The senior advocate said Modi's speech should be seen as a counter or a response to an attack by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, who allegedly had described him as a "merchant of deaths".
He questioned the urgency shown in hearing the matter and questioned the locus standi of lyricist Javed Akhtar in filing the application seeking registration of an FIR against Modi for his alleged inflammatory speech.
Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter and senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Rubabuddin, countered the Gujarat government's contention stating that there was no ground to adjourn the matter as proceedings before the Election Commission were different.
"It (statement of Modi) is plainly an interference with the proceedings pending before this court and notice should be issued," Subramanium said.
Dave, while pressing for issuance of notices, said, "The court is only examining whether there is a contempt or not and whether the course of justice has been polluted or not."
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Sheikh, alleged that the chief minister had not only justified the killing of Sohrabuddin but tacitly admitted his role in the encounter.

First Published: Thu, December 13 2007. 00:00 IST
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