In a relief to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, the Delhi high court Wednesday stayed the execution of non-bailable warrants issued against him in 2008 for his alleged anti-Bihari remarks.
"The operation of the NBWs is stayed," Justice Sunil Gaur said after hearing brief arguments advanced by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi seeking to quash the summoning orders passed in 2008 by a lower court at Muzaffarpur in Bihar on two private complaints lodged against him.
The court also issued a notice to Sudhir Kumar Ojha, a Bihar-based advocate, and sought his response on the plea of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief while posting the matter for further hearing on April 16.
Initiating the arguments, Rohatgi said, "The summons have been issued on bald complaints of a lawyer and, moreover, the complaints do not satisfy the ingredients envisaged under section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code."
The court, after going through the content of the alleged speeches, said, "It seems it is insulting..."
In response to the observation, the senior lawyer said, "Anybody can have the right to have his or her personal opinion about an issue and they (statements) cannot be held as offensive without being tested".
The counsel for Thackeray sought exemption from personal appearance for the MNS leader during trial court proceedings, saying there were as many as 16 private criminal complaints filed against him and they have been transferred to Delhi following an order of the Supreme Court.
The high court granted exemption from personal appearance for a day to the MNS chief who was to appear in a Delhi court on Thursday in connection with the two cases.
Thackeray is seeking quashing of the summoning orders passed by the Muzaffarpur court on December 15, 2008 on the grounds that they have been issued without proper application of judicial mind and that no extract of the so-called speeches were annexed with the complaints.
Ojha had filed the private criminal complaints in 2008 against Thackeray alleging that the leader made anti-Bihari remarks in his speeches and insulted the 'chhath pooja'. The lower court had issued summons against Thackeray after taking cognisance of the complaints against him.
Several similar complaints were filed against Thackeray at various places including in Bihar and Jharkhand, prompting the MNS chief to move to Supreme Court to seek their clubbing and transfer from those states.
The apex court had in January 2010 transferred to a Delhi court the cases registered against MNS chief in Bihar and Jharkhand for his alleged hate speeches against north Indians.
The apex court had decided to transfer all proceedings relating to those cases to a Tis Hazari court after the counsel for all the parties consented to it.