Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi, who faces charges of making "hate speech", on Monday moved the Andhra Pradesh high court seeking quashing of FIRs filed against him, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party accused the Andhra Pradesh government of going soft on him.
Owaisi, who has been booked at three police stations, arrived from London on Monday morning at the airport where a large number of his supporters had gathered.
His counsel immediately filed an application at Nirmal police in Adilabad district seeking four days' time to appear before the police citing health grounds.
A few hours later, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA, who is also his party's floor leader in the Andhra Pradesh state assembly, moved a petition through his counsel in the high court contending that he has been implicated in these cases due to political reasons.
In his petition, Owaisi's counsel claimed that, "He is an MLA and he is available to the investigation at any time and that there is no need to arrest him. Despite the police registering suo-motu cases at Nirmal and Nizamabad police stations, more complaints were being lodged at different places and he sought quashing of all the FIRs registered in Andhra Pradesh," he counsel said in his petition.
The high court posted the matter to January 9.
Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of going soft on Owaisi's MIM as both are still alliance partners in Hyderabad and hit out against the Andhra Pradesh government for allegedly failing to take prompt action over his alleged "hate speech".
"Why this delay in taking action? Why this lenient attitude when there is universal condemnation of his highly objectionable comments? It is the Congress which helped the MIM grow? They still share power in the Hyderabad corporation. Is this the reason why they are soft," he told reporters.
The MIM had recently withdrawn support to the Congress both at the Centre and state, but both the parties continue to share power in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
Earlier, one of Owaisi's counsel appeared before the investigation officer of Nirmal (rural) police and submitted the application seeking four days' time for his appearance. The police, which issued an acknowledgement, however, has yet to take a decision on Owaisi's request.
A senior police officer told PTI from Adilabad that Owaisi did not turn up before them, though one of his counsel represented the MIM leader. "We are discussing his request," the police officer said.
When asked about Owaisi's "failure" to appear before the police despite being served a notice, the police officer said, "It is the prerogative of the investigating officer of the Nirmal police, on how the course of investigation will proceed."
The police, who anticipated trouble in view of Owaisi's appearance in Nirmal town, had clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC, even as scores of BJP workers demanding his immediate arrest held demonstrations and tried to lay seige to the police station, while Owaisi's counsel reached there.
The police resorted to mild caning to disperse protesting BJP workers, even as shops and business establishments remained closed in Nirmal town.
Similar protests were held by the BJP and its front organisations in Adilabad, Hyderabad and Nizamabad, as well as other districts demanding his arrest.
The police also took into custody 15 protesters for violating prohibitory orders.
Image: Akbaruddin Owaisi is greeted by supporters at the Hyderabad airport