In a partial relief to Patel quota agitation leader Hardik Patel, the Gujarat High Court today dropped the charge of 'waging war against government' against him and his five aides but upheld the stringent sedition clause against them.
Justice J B Pardiwala, after hearing the arguments, ordered the removal of three IPC sections in the FIR - section 121 (waging war against government), 153-A (promoting enmity between different communities) and 153-B (assertions prejudicial to national integrity) - against Hardik and his aides.
The court, however, refused to drop IPC sections 124 (sedition) and 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against government), which attract punishment of life imprisonment or up to 10 years.
In October, the city Crime Branch had lodged an FIR against 22-year-old Hardik and five of his close aides under charges of sedition and waging war against the government.
Later, Hardik, Chirag Patel, Dinesh Bambhaniya and Ketan Patel were arrested. They are currently behind bars.
Two other aides of Hardik - Amrish Patel and Alpesh Kathiriya - were not arrested as the high court had granted them interim protection.
In another development, the high court today extended their interim relief from arrest for another 15 days.
This was the second sedition complaint against Hardik after he was booked under the same charge by Surat Police.
In November, Hardik and others moved the high court to set aside the FIR against them, claiming that their protest to seek reservation for Patel community does not amount to "sedition or waging war against government".
During the arguments on November 2, public prosecutor Mitesh Amin had strongly defended the stand of Crime Branch for slapping stringent charges against the Patel leaders, stating that the FIR is based on the call interceptions made by it.
The Crime Branch had recorded over 200 such calls among the Patel leaders between July and September.
The prosecutor had argued that these conversations are of very "caustic" nature, such as that the accused can be heard asking their supporters to torch police chowkies, dislodge railway tracks, and murder policemen.
These conversations were made as part of an attempt to topple the government, he argued.
Apart from the calls, police also learnt that as many as 35 lakh messages, urging the Patel community to resort to violence, were sent using social media platform immediately after Hardik was detained by police on the night of August 25, Amin told the high court.
He stated that the fallout of such communication was the statewide violence, which claimed lives of one policemen and seven citizens.
On the other side, Hardik's lawyer B M Mangukiya said that people have all the right to express their dissent against government, as it is a fundamental right in democracy.
He said that even if people get impulsive in their expression, it does not amount to "sedition or waging of war against government".
Mangukiya argued that dislodging of railway tracks does not amount to sedition or waging war, and such protests take place across the country frequently, yet no one is booked under such stringent charges.
He also argued that the protests, though may be violent, were against the elected government run by the ruling party (BJP), and not against sovereignty of the government.