Calcutta, July 30: A Calcutta High Court division bench today stayed till 2pm tomorrow Justice Dipankar Dutta’s interim order asking the CID deputy inspector-general to probe Tapas Paul’s hate speech.
The division bench of Justice Girish Gupta and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty will resume hearing the case from 10.30am tomorrow.
“Since we are hearing the appeal moved by the state against the trial court’s order and the hearing will resume from 10.30am tomorrow, the interim order will not be given effect till 2pm tomorrow,” the division bench said.
The state government today moved the division bench through advocate Kalyan Banerjee, also a Trinamul Congress MP, challenging the validity of Justice Dutta’s interim order issued on Monday.
Trinamul MP Paul’s counsel Kishore Dutta also filed an appeal today challenging the order in which Justice Dutta had directed police to lodge an FIR against Paul within 72 hours of the posting of the order on the high court website.
The police had not taken any action till this evening, which sources in the government said was part of a strategy to stand by Paul and contest the trial court’s order.
The appeals by the government and Paul’s lawyer have raised the question whether the MP’s comments are cognisable. In legal parlance, an offence is deemed cognisable when investigators can initiate criminal proceedings against an accused.
Paul had threatened to shoot Opposition members and send his boys to rape the women in the rivals’ families.
Advocate Banerjee’s main contentions were that Paul’s speech could not be considered a cognisable offence and the trial court had made a mistake by asking the police to initiate a case against the MP on a complaint lodged on the basis of media reports.
“While refusing to hear a case demanding penal action against the MP, the Supreme Court had held that it was not in a position to give remedy to him,” Banerjee said.
Paul’s lawyer Kishore Dutta said: “The division bench will have to assess whether the comments made by the MP can be considered a cognisable offence. What my client had said at the meeting was an outburst prompted by another incident in which one of his followers was killed by rivals.”
After hearing the appellants, Justice Gupta decided to first consider whether Paul’s comments were cognisable and sought the views of the petitioner’s counsel, Aniruddha Chatterjee.
Chatterjee read out Paul’s speech in Bengali and then translated it into English. “The MP was saying that that he was a maal (tough) from Chandernagore, not Calcutta, and described himself as a goon,” the counsel said.
Justice Gupta replied: “By calling himself a goon, the MP lowered his own image. This part of the speech cannot be considered cognisable.”
Chatterjee then read out another portion of the speech and said: “The MP is telling his partymen that he carries a revolver. He is saying he will kill Opposition party members.”
The judge responded: “Anyone can posses a licensed revolver. As an MP, he can carry a revolver for his safety. Moreover, mere intention cannot be considered a crime. He also said he would kill the men if they touched the hair of his supporters. This he may have said for the safety of his party workers.”
Chatterjee proceeded to read out the portion of the speech in which Paul said he would send his boys to rape female members of Opposition families.
At this juncture, Justice Gupta stopped for a while to read the speech from the affidavit filed by Chatterjee’s client, social activist Biplab Chowdhury.
Chatterjee told Justice Gupta: “You just see Section 153 A (i) of the Indian Penal Code. The MP, through his speech, had instigated his followers to commit a crime. This is a cognisable offence.”
The judge replied that the division bench would continue hearing the appeals tomorrow.
Earlier in the day, advocate Banerjee had moved the appeal before the division bench of Justices Pranab Chattopadhyay and Samapti Chatterjee. But the senior judge of the bench, Justice Chattopadhyay, told Banerjee that his court did not have the jurisdiction to hear an appeal relating to a case of police inaction.
Chowdhury, the Nadia-based social activist, had moved Justice Dutta’s court alleging that Nakashipara police station in the district had not taken any action against Paul.
Justice Chattopadhyay advised Banerjee to move another division bench.