Gujarat High Court asks government to explain Hardik phone tapping

Ahmedabad/Surat, Dec 9 (IANS) The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday asked the state government to explain why it had needed to tap the phone calls of pro-Patel reservation leader Hardik Patel in a case where he faces charges of trying to incite his community members against the state.

The government is to submit its reply by December 18 in the case involving Patel and his four associates.

Concluding his submissions in the court, Patel’s advocate B.M. Mangukia argued that the government’s stance about tapping in to the phones of his clients under the IPC could not hold much water as police can intercept phone calls of any citizen if there is a public emergency, country’s interests were under threat, in times of communal riots or there was public disorder.

The Ahmedabad Crime Branch has filed an FIR on October 21, charging Patel and four of his other associates under various sections of Indian Penal Code, including sections 121 (waging war against the government) and 124 (sedition — bringing hatred, contempt or disaffection towards the government).

Defending the charges on behalf of government, public prosecutor Mitesh Amin had earlier said in the court that the FIR against Patel and five other quota leaders — Ketan Patel, Chirag Patel, Dinesh Patel, Alpesh Kathiriya and Amrish Patel — were based on over 200 call interceptions.

He alleged that the conversations were “caustic” and the accused could be heard instigating their supporters to resort to violence by torching police outposts, uproot railway tracks and even kill policemen. Other than phone calls, the accused are alleged to have sent as many as 35 lakh messages across social media, instigating Patel community members to resort to violence in wake of police detention of Patel on the night of August 25, 2015.

The high court has already struck out the charge with waging war against the nation or creating disturbances between two communities.

Meanwhile, Hardik Patel was sent back to Lajpore Central Jail in Surat district after police did not seek an extension of his one-day remand in a case related to blocking of national highway.

The Kamrej police had arrested the 22-year-old leader on Monday for his alleged role in blockage of the national highway. “Neither did Hardik apply for any bail nor did police seek any extension and so he was sent back to Lajpore Central jail,” said his lawyer Harish Nakarni.

On October 18, Patel was arrested in Rajkot for threatening to disrupt one-day match between India and South Africa and allegedly insulting the national flag en route to stadium. Post his arrest then, several of his aides, led by convenor of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in Surat, Alpesh Kathiriya, blocked National Highway near Surat.

Kathiriya, who was arrested recently, had during his interrogation revealed that the demonstration over two months ago was staged on Patel’s instructions.

Police later added name of Patel to the FIR and charged the accused under various sections of Indian Penal Code, including section 188 (disobeying police order), 151 (unlawful assembly and 427 (mischief causing damage to the property), among others.

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