The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday asked the government to explain the grounds on which sedition charges were slapped on Patel community leader Hardik Patel.
Even as the court observation came, three of his supporters were whisked away by the Crime Branch from outside the court premises on similar charges.
The sedition charge on Hardik Patel followed his alleged remarks earlier this month that his community’s youngsters should kill a policeman or two instead of committing suicide.
Police sources said the three others would also face the same charge for making provocative speeches.
Hardik Patel, 22, who has been leading an agitation for reservation in jobs for the Patel community, was on Monday arrested on sedition charges for exhorting a youngster, Vipul Desai, in Surat on October 3 not to commit suicide but kill some policemen instead.
A Surat court subsequently remanded him to police custody till October 23.
“If you have so much courage… then go and kill a couple of policemen. Patels never commit suicide,” Hardik Patel had allegedly advised Desai, who had threatened to commit suicide in support of the Patel community agitation.
Hardik Patel had taken a TV channel reporter with him when he called on Desai.
After the channel telecast it, the conversation was uploaded on the social media, triggering a huge controversy.
A single judge bench of Justice J.B. Pardiwala asked the government lawyers how did Hardik Patel’s remarks tantamount to sedition, which according to section 124 (A) of the Indian Penal Code is spreading “hatred against a government established by law in India”.
The judge asked whether Hardik Patel’s statement fell into this definition.
Justice Pardiwala also observed that Hardik Patel’s remarks were made “in proximity” to an individual and not publicly so as to spread hatred against the state.
The next hearing in the case has been posted for Friday.
Hardik Patel’s detention on sedition charges was challenged in the high court by his father Bharat Patel, a BJP activist, through advocate B.M. Mangukiya.
His petition contended: “No offence can be disclosed by spoken words of Hardik and no overt act can be attributed to him by those words, thus no offence has been made out.”
Hardik Patel was first detained by the Rajkot police ahead of the India-South Africa one-day cricket match on Sunday following his threats to disrupt the game.
He was then arrested in Rajkot on Monday for allegedly insulting the national flag for holding it upside down during his protest and granted bail by a court on a surety of Rs 20,000.
Just as he emerged from the court, he was picked up on sedition charges to be taken to Surat.
Meanwhile, the Ahmedabad Crime Branch Police picked up two close associates of Hardik Patel — Dinesh Bhamania and Chirag Patel — besides Lalji Patel, the founder of another pro-quota outfit, Sardar Patel Group (SPG).
Hardik’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) was earlier at loggerheads with the SPG but they buried the hatchet.
Their vehicle was halted by the police by thumping at the bonnet just as they drove out of the high court premises after the hearing in Hardik Patel’s case got over in the evening.
The police officials swooped on them even as their lawyer, B.M. Mangukia, and his woman associate sought to know on what charges were the Patel leaders being picked up.
At one point, a Crime Branch official pushed the woman by force to make her get out of their way.
“They had been following us in the court campus… I got to know of the charges only through the media,” Mangukia told reporters.