On February 28, 2020 Supreme Court bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran granted interim bail to Hardik Patel till next hearing on March 6, 2020 in the Patidar riot case in July 23, 2015.
The apex court also sought a report from the state regarding the registration of FIRs, arrests made, and bail granted in the case. The report is required to be filed by Monday (March 2, 2020).
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed by saying, "Police stations, vehicles, properties were set on fire then (during the 2015 unrest)! He (Patel) was the main person behind all this!" He further said, "But he (Patel) has anyway not been arrested since 2015! He has been alright even without any such relief!"
The apex court replied to objection of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta by saying, "That is all the more reason to give him protection! You did not act for 5 long years...there is no harm in waiting for 7 more days!" The court also reprimanded Gujarat police for not conducting investigation appropriately.
Patel had approached the Court against the decision of the Gujarat High Court denying him anticipatory bail in the 2015 case.
This development took place after Hardik Patel’s wife Kinjal stated that "Hardik Patel has been untraceable since he was arrested on January 18. Though we do not know where he is, the police frequently come to our residence to ask me about his whereabouts."
Patel, who is facing sedition cases related to the 2015 Patidar quota agitation, was arrested on January 18, 2020, after a court here issued a non-bailable warrant for not being present during the hearing. He was granted bail four days later but was again picked up in connection with two other cases filed in Patan and Gandhinagar districts. Patel got bail in these two cases on January 24. Soon on February 7, a trial court issued a non-bailable warrant to Gujarat police after Patel once again failed to appear for a hearing.
In July 2015, Hardik Patel led public demonstrations across Gujarat demanding OBC status for the Patidar community - which would entitle Patidars to a reservation in government educational institutions and jobs. Patel also formed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and held several demonstrations in places like Mehsana, Mansa, Visnagar. On 23 July, the protests turned violent when some agitators allegedly vandalised the office of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Rishikesh Patel and destroyed public property.
Taking cognizance, the police filed 1,500 cases against people who took part in the quota agitation. The community has since then demanded the state government to withdraw the cases. Patel who faces over 20 cases registered against him across Gujarat, since then joined the Congress in the run up to the Lok Sabha but could not contest for the polls because of his conviction of the rioting offence in Mehsana.
Author – Satwik Sharma