Social activist Medha Patkar on Thursday opposed in a Gujarat court Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena’s plea seeking that the trial against him in a 2002 case of alleged assault on her be kept in abeyance on grounds of immunity provided to him under the Constitution, holding his post is not equivalent to a Governor.
In her reply to Mr Saxena’s plea before the court of metropolitan magistrate P C Goswami in Ahmedabad that is hearing the case, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader insisted that immunity provided under Article 361 of the Constitution to certain top functionaries is not available to the Lieutenant Governor (LG).
The matter will be next heard on March 15.
Mr Saxena, who became the Delhi LG in May 2022, is an accused, along with three others in a case of alleged attack on Ms Patkar for opposing the Narmada dam project.
In an application filed last week, Mr Saxena had pleaded before the court to keep the trial against him in abeyance till the time he holds the office of Lieutenant Governor, citing provisions of Article 361 of the Constitution.
Ms Patkar said Mr Saxena’s application was completely “misconceived” and filed merely to further delay the proceedings. She said the immunity provided under the Constitution is not available to the LG.
The veteran activist argued the status of the Delhi LG was not the same as that of the Governor of a state.
“The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi… is not a Governor in terms of Article 153 of the Constitution of India, but merely an ‘Administrator’ of Union Territory who is appointed by the President to act on his behalf,” stated her reply.
She said Article 361 of the Constitution extends protection from trial to the President and Governors and not to administrators of Union Territories, whether or not they are designated as “Lieutenant Governor”.
In his plea, Mr Saxena had requested the court to keep the trial against him in abeyance on the grounds of what he claimed immunity granted to the constitutional post he is currently holding.
The Lieutenant Governor had said he has been vigorously defending himself against the “motivated, frivolous, vexations and vindictive” prosecution since 2005, “instituted upon the frolicsome complaint filed by Ms Medha Patkar.” Mr Saxena headed an NGO, National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), which opposed Ms Patkar’s NBA over its movement against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in Gujarat.
As per details of the 21-year-old case, a group of people had allegedly attacked Ms Patkar when she was taking part in a peace meet in Ahmedabad on March 7, 2002. A complaint was later lodged by her against Saxena and three others at the city’s Sabarmati police station in connection with the incident.
An FIR (first information report) was subsequently lodged against the four persons and they were booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 321 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of trust), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
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