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SC gives Murthy anthem relief

New Delhi, Feb. 4: The Supreme Court today refused to set aside a Karnataka High Court order quashing proceedings against Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy in a lower court for allegedly insulting the national anthem.

“No case is made out against him,” a three-judge bench, presided over by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, said. “If a planned programme is cancelled, will it amount to contempt?” the bench asked.

The Kannada Rakshana Vakeelara Vedike, a cultural outfit, had filed a complaint against Narayana Murthy for cancelling an actual rendition of the national anthem and settling for an instrumental version.

The outfit had claimed that Narayana Murthy made “insulting” remarks about the anthem while talking to reporters on April 8, 2007, shortly after the then President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, visited the Infosys corporate education centre in Mysore.

Vedike counsel C.M. Angadi argued that Narayana Murthy’s explanation that he had opted for an “instrumental” version of the anthem as he did not want to embarrass the foreign dignitaries on stage was “insulting”.

A case was made out against Narayana Murthy under Section 3 of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1971, he argued. But Angadi’s plea did not find favour with the judges.

“Whether it’s recorded or not, what difference does it make as long as a person is committed to his country?” the court asked. “It would have been a different thing if the rendition had started and someone had physically stopped it.”

It dismissed the Vedike appeal against the August 14, 2007, high court order. “This is an abuse of the process of the court,” the court said.

“You can’t go on dramatising something that has not happened. It is factually incorrect to say that he (Narayana Murthy) stopped the playing of the national anthem.”

Appearing for Narayana Murthy, senior advocate K.K. Venugopal said the high court had already quashed the case for want of jurisdiction. The incident took place in Mysore and a Bangalore court had taken cognizance of the matter, he added.

Narayana Murthy had moved the high court seeking to quash a magistrate’s order of May 26, 2007, issuing summons to him.

Another case had been filed against him in a Mysore court, too. An appeal by Narayana Murthy to quash it is pending with the high court.

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