A court in Pilibhit has accepted a civil society appeal against the acquittal of BJP MP Varun Gandhi in the 2009 hate speech case. The sessions court agreed to hear the revision application filed by Mohammed Assad Hayat of the Awami Council for Democracy and Peace (ACDP), along with that filed by the Uttar Pradesh government, on 15 June. The court had earlier ordered Gandhi to appear before it on that date.
Hayat’s application, filed two days before the UP government submitted its appeal on 29 May, had been challenged by the government on the grounds that he was not a victim in the case. The petitioners insisted on the locus of any person to agitate a point of criminal law, especially since, in this case, the crime Gandhi is accused of is against society at large. They also cited several judgments of the Gujarat and Bombay High Courts that recognise a victim’s right to file an appeal independent of the state government. While the government has filed appeals in both the cases of hate speech in which Gandhi was acquitted, the ACDP’s appeal pertains only to the incident at Barkhera on 8 March 2009, in which Gandhi had been acquitted on 5 March this year after all 34 witnesses turned hostile.
The petition raises various questions about the court proceedings, such as why Gandhi’s refusal to submit a voice sample was not challenged or taken cognisance of by the court, or why the court did not summon all witnesses — over 50, including District Magistrate Mahendra Prasad Agarwal, Superintendent of Police Rajendra Prasad Jain and SK Jain, additional director of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, had been exempted on the prosecution’s request — once the 34 witnesses had turned hostile. Incidentally, Hayat had raised these questions in a petition during the trial itself, but it was rejected by the court because the prosecution had called it “worthy of dismissal”.
A Tehelka sting investigation exposed that not only did Varun Gandhi make the venomous speeches he is accused of, he compounded the original wrong by brazenly subverting the entire judicial process to get his name cleared. It exposed how witnesses were threatened or bribed by the police, testimonies were taken without the judge in court and thumbprints were put on documents written by police. Crucial witnesses – including the forensic expert — were not summoned by the public prosecutor; many were not even questioned.