The Supreme Court today directed controversial Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan to tender an "unconditional apology" for alleged remarks on the sensational Bulandshahr gang rape case while seeking assistance of the Attorney General in dealing with the issue of statements made by persons holding public offices in such cases.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy referred to the old adage that "words once spoken cannot be recalled" and asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Khan, that "if he (Khan) files an affidavit tendering unconditional apology, the matter ends".
During the hearing, Sibal told the bench that though Khan has not said anything, attributed to him, against the victims in the case, but if the father of the victim felt "insulted or offended" in any manner then the Samajwadi Party leader is willing to apologise.
"Let the affidavit tendering unconditional apology be filed within two weeks," the bench said, adding that it would deliberate upon the questions framed by it earlier regarding the freedom of speech and expression and probable impact of statements of those holding high offices on free and fair probe in heinous cases including rape and molestation.
Terming dignity of women as "uncompromisable", the bench asked the state government to ensure that the minor survivor of the gang rape gets admission in a nearby central school of the choice of her father.
The cost of admission and education shall be borne by the state government and the Centre will render all assistance for it, the court said, noting the school will ensure the dignity of the rape survivor.
"The controvery does not end here. The unconditional apology to be given by R-2 (Khan) will be considered by this court as to whether it should be accepted. The issue of questions framed by this court earlier will be deliberated upon. We request Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to assist this court," the bench, which fixed the matter for further hearing on December 7, said.
Noted jurist and amicus curiae Fali S Nariman told the bench that the questions framed by the court should be debated upon so that a decision could be given on the issue regarding statements by persons holding high offices in cases like rape and molestation.
However, the bench observed, "The responsibility of the press, the responsibility of the persons holding public offices qua dignity of a woman should be there."
The brutal incident had happened on the night of July 29 when a group of highway robbers stopped the car of a Noida- based family and sexually assaulted a woman and her daughter after dragging them out of the vehicle at gun-point.
The apex court had on August 29 taken note of the alleged controversial remarks of Khan that the gang rape case was a "political conspiracy".
As the hearing commenced today, Sibal said that Khan has filed an affidavit in pursuance to the court's direction.
He said that Khan has not stated anything that has been alleged against him and there was no question of insulting the victims.
"He (Khan) has not said the word 'political conspiracy'. He has termed the incident as shocking. We have been issued a notice for saying the words which he (Khan) has not said at all," he told the bench.
However, advocate Kislay Pandey, who was appearing for the petitioner, alleged that Khan has filed a "doctored" CD having his statements in the apex court in which the some words have been deliberately and intentionally deleted.
He also referred to the statements of Khan which were carried by the media, both print and electronic.
Sibal sought to counter this saying there was nothing like that and Khan had never intended to say that it was a 'political conspiracy'.
To this, the bench said, "The word that has been said conveys a meaning. You (Khan) cannot say that this has been done to blame the party. How can a minister say that it is done to blame the party."
The counsel for the petitioner told the bench that the victim has suffered a lot in the case and the state government should look after her education.
When the bench asked the state's counsel about it, he said that a compensation of Rs 10.5 lakh each has been given to the mother and the girl, besides two residential flats.
On the issue of education of the girl, the state said that it would take steps for her admission in a Kendriya Vidyalaya that is near her house.
Initially, the FIR was lodged by the Uttar Pradesh Police under various provisions on July 30. The CBI had re-registered the case on August 18 in pursuance to the Allahabad High Court's interim order.
The man, whose wife and daughter were gang raped in July on a highway in Bulandshahr, had on August 13 moved the apex court seeking transfer of the case to Delhi, besides lodging of an FIR against Khan as well as several policemen.
The Allahabad High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the incident, besides deciding to monitor the investigation.