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Punjab and Haryana High Court evokes 1984 trauma; denies bail in Amritsar case

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has drawn parallels with one of the “blackest and horrific moments” in the Indian history –– the 1984 anti-Sikh riots –– as it addressed a case involving alleged hate speech.

Turning down the bail plea of a person accused of making statement against the Sikh community, Justice Jasgurpreet Singh Puri asserted it invoked the haunting memories of the widespread violence and loss of life witnessed across the country in the aftermath of the then Prime Minister’s assassination in 1984.

The matter was placed before Justice Puri’s Bench after the accused filed a second petition for grant of regular bail in a case registered on May 5 under Sections 295-A, 298, 153- A, 506 and 34 of the IPC at Amritsar Sadar police station.

Justice Puri added the alleged video post, which the petitioner uploaded, was acknowledged thereafter by apologising

Section 295-A pertains acts of insult or attempts carried out with deliberate and malicious intent, intending to outrage the religious sentiments of a particular class or community. Taking up the matter, Justice Puri asserted the court was reminded of “one of the blackest and horrific moments in the history of India which happened in the year 1984”.

Justice Puri asserted thousands of people were killed and their families were suffering till date following riots witnessed by the country after the assassination. “Although this court will confine itself only to the allegations made in the present FIR, the wording allegedly used by the petitioner and its tenor leaves no manner of doubt that it is not only serious, but also heinous in nature.”

Justice Puri added the alleged video post, which the petitioner uploaded, was acknowledged thereafter by apologising. The State’s case was that the purpose of making such a statement on the social media was to cause riots among the communities, which was duly prevented by the State.

Justice Puri also observed the apprehension expressed by the counsel for the State, and also the complainant, that the accused might intimidate and influence the witnesses, and might abscond from justice, in case he was released on bail, carried weight and could not be ignored.

“This Court does not wish to go into the merits with regard to the allegations but the scope of the present petition is only for the purpose of deciding the bail petition of the petitioner and it is made clear that no observation etc. made in the present order shall be deemed to be any observation on the merits of the case because the trial has already commenced,” Justice Puri asserted.

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