Tuesday, October 3, 2023

National Anthem row: Bombay High Court to hear Mamata Banerjee plea seeking quashing of complaint against her on March 27

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The High Court of Bombay has decided to hear the petition filed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, seeking quashing of the complaint filed against her for allegedly disrespecting the National Anthem during an event, on March 27.

The West Bengal Chief Minister contended in her petition that she had referred to parts of the National Anthem to draw the spirit of oneness of India from it.

A Single-Judge Bench will hear her plea on March 27, it was learnt.

A complaint was filed by BJP’s Vivekanand Gupta against Banerjee, who visited Maharashtra during an official trip on November 30 and December 1, 2021.

The complaint alleged that while addressing a gathering at Cuffe Parade in Mumbai, Banerjee disrespected the National Anthem by singing first two stanzas of the National Anthem in a sitting position. She then stood up for the next two stanzas and left the gathering abruptly.

The Metropolitan Magistrate ordered proceedings against Banerjee under Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. Banerjee moved the Sessions Court by way of a criminal revision application, which set the order of process aside and remanded the matter back for fresh adjudication by the Magistrate.

The West Bengal Chief Minister then approached the High Court seeking quashing of the entire matter under Section 482 of the CrPC.

Section 3 of the Act provides for up to three years of imprisonment for a person who intentionally prevents singing of the National Anthem or causes disturbance to any assembly engaged in such singing.

Banerjee contended in her petition that the complaint was liable to be dismissed as mandatory sanction under Section 197 CrPC was not obtained before taking cognisance of the complaint against her, since she was a public servant.

She claimed that during her concluding remarks, she slowly recited the first two lines of the National Anthem while being ‘seated’ with folded hands and then rose from her seat and ‘patriotically’ recited the third and fourth verses of the National Anthem. 

As per Banerjee, the complainant saw an edited news version of the event without having been actually present in the venue and maliciously filed the complaint due to his sense of offence.

The West Bengal Chief Minister said she was not singing the National Anthem, but referring to parts of it to show the spirit of oneness from the Union of India. 

Further, there was no question of disturbance to singing the National Anthem as the assembly was not singing it at any point, added the plea.

The Sessions Court in the revision application said that no offence under Section 3 of the Act was made out and set aside the order of process. 

However, it also found procedural issues in the Magistrate’s order and remanded the matter back to the Metropolitan Magistrate .

In her petition before the High Court, Banerjee prayed that the Sessions Court order be set aside to the extent of remanding the matter back to the Metropolitan Magistrate and the complaint against her be quashed.

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