Agitators damaging public property must pay: SC

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would lay down guidelines to act against people damaging public property and holding people to ransom in the course of their agitation as it wondered where was the country heading.

Agitators can’t destroy public property and hold everything to ransom to get their demands met, said the apex court bench comprising Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice C. Nagappan underlining that those involved in destruction of public property would not escape the consequences of their actions.

“What is happening? Where is our country (headed for). One cannot burn the country’s property. You can agitate peacefully. But what is this? – burning and ransacking”, the court said with an obvious reference to the recent Jat agitation in Haryana which resulted in damage and destruction of public property, dislocation of public transport including disruption of water supply to the national capital.

The court’s strong observation came in the course of the hearing of a plea filed by Gujarat Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, seeking the quashing of sedition charges invoked against him by the Gujarat Police.

Saying that people and political parties must pay for damaging public property, the bench said, “We must take call on the issue and frame guidelines.”

The court said it would address the larger issue after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that petitioner Hardik Patel had sought the quashing of the FIR accusing him of sedition.

He said now the chargesheet has been filed before the trial court and the same could not be tested by the top court.

The court was also told Hardik Patel’s plea for bail was still pending before the sessions court and it (apex court) should hold back the plea for bail till it was decided.

As the counsel for the Patidar leader sought adjournment of the hearing, saying that senior counsel Kapil Sibal was engaged in another court, the court said it would hear the matter on Thursday (February 25) indicating that the focus would be on the larger issue of ways to deal with agitators involved in destruction and damage of public property during an agitation.

Gujarat Police has accused Hardik Patel of sedition for an incident in Surat wherein the Patidar leader was caught on camera telling one of his followers that instead of committing suicide he should take revenge on the policemen.

Sibal had said, in the last hearing, that even if whatever Gujarat Police was saying was to be accepted, even then it did not attract the sedition charge.

Hardik Patel is leading the Patidar agitation, seeking reservation for Patels in education and jobs.

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