Karnataka HC stays probe against Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje over cafe blast remarks

NewsDrum Desk
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Bengaluru, Mar 22 (PTI) The Karnataka High Court on Friday stayed further investigation in a criminal case filed against BJP MP and Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje over her statement during a protest in Bengaluru, where she linked a suspect in the Rameshwaram cafe blast here with Tamil Nadu.

The Election Commission Flying Squad initiated the case, which was registered under sections 123(3), 123(3A), and 125 of the Representation of People Act at Cottonpet Police station.

The sections refer to promotion of feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language.

Justice Krishna S Dixit, presiding over a single judge bench, issued notice to the concerned parties and paused the ongoing investigation.

The judge advised Karandlaje to exercise caution in her public statements, emphasising that leaders from all parties should show restraint to maintain a civilised society. He expressed concerns about India's future if such decorum is not upheld.

During a protest in Bengaluru on Tuesday, Karandlaje had claimed that law and order in Karnataka has "deteriorated". "People who come from Tamil Nadu plant bombs here, those from Delhi chant 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans and some who come from Kerala are involved in 'acid attacks'," she claimed.

She later apologised for her remarks and said she was retracting them.

Advocate Venkatesh Dalwai, representing Karandlaje, argued that the alleged offences were not exactly election offences.

The court, questioning the severity of the charges and invoking freedom of speech, pointed out that a democratic society like India shouldn't restrict speech akin to a totalitarian regime like Nazi Germany.

The government's advocate mentioned the involvement of the Flying Squad officer in filing the case, and suggested potential charges under a different section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Consequently, the court upheld the accused's right to free speech and stayed further proceedings in the case pending a detailed examination of the charges and legal frameworks involved.

The FIR was filed after the EC directed the Karnataka chief electoral officer (CEO) to take immediate and appropriate action on the DMK's complaint regarding the alleged violation by Karandlaje, who is BJP's Lok Sabha candidate from the Bangalore North constituency. The poll panel also sought a compliance report on the matter within 48 hours.

DMK, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, had sought action against Karandlaje for alleging that a person from Tamil Nadu was responsible for the IED blast that was set off on March 1 at Rameshwaram Cafe in Bengaluru.

In its complaint, the DMK said that the minister’s statement generalised the people of Tamil Nadu as “extremists”.

The Madurai police has also booked Karandlaje for “promoting enmity” between different groups. Her remarks have drawn sharp criticism from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin and other DMK leaders. PTI CORR KSU RS ANE