New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday granted interim protection from arrest to Congress leader Hardik Patel in a case related to violence during the Patidar quota stir in 2015, as it rapped the Gujarat Police, saying it cannot sit over a case for five years.
The top court asked the Gujarat Police as to why it did not summon or issue notice to Patel for questioning in the case lodged against him in 2015.
"The FIR was lodged against him (Patel) in 2015. You have to tell us as to what steps have been taken. You have not even issued notice to him for questioning. You have done nothing and for five long years the investigation is still going on," a bench of Justices U U Lalit and Vineet Saran told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the Gujarat Police.
Hearing Patel's plea, the top court sought response from the Gujarat Police by March 6 and said he should not be arrested till then.
Mehta said that notices for questioning were issued but Patel was not found.
"In 2015, over 2-3 lakh people had gathered and Patel had given speeches against the government. Several police stations were burnt and public properties were damaged in the violence which ensued thereafter," he said.
The bench then asked as to how many people were arrested in the case till now.
Mehta said so far only two people were arrested and sought time to file reply to the petition.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Patel, said all sections imposed against his client were bailable except section 332 of the IPC (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty).
"Since 2015, not a single notice was issued by the police in the cases in which I was booked. Allegation is that I made speeches against the government," he said.
Singhvi added that the Gujarat High Court and the trial court had dismissed Patel's petition in this case on the ground that "I had violated bail conditions in other related cases".
"Investigation is still pending in the matter and I was not even named in the FIR lodged in 2015," he added.
The bench then listed the matter for final disposal on March 6.
The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti under Patel had organised a mega rally in Ahmedabad as part of the stir, demanding quota for the community in government jobs.
An FIR was lodged for "unlawful assembly" as the police claimed they organiser did not have requisite permissions.
The Gujarat High Court had on February 17 rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Patel after considering the government's objection on grounds of his criminal antecedents.
Opposing his plea, the government had told the high court that there were more than 10 criminal cases against Patel, and that he had gone underground fearing arrest.
The police had also contended that the "unlawful" gathering had led to violence, in which over a dozen youths were killed and property was damaged.
In his anticipatory bail plea before the high court, Patel had claimed he was being "victimised by the ruling party of the state" which has slapped "several false, frivolous and concocted cases against him".