Behind bars for over 200 days on the sedition charge, Patidar quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel was on Friday granted bail by the Gujarat High Court with a rider that he will stay out of the state for six months.
While Justice A.J. Desai granted him bail in sedition cases registered in Ahmedabad and Surat after months of court slugfest between state government counsel and his lawyers, Patel will, however, not come out of jail soon since he faces four other cases where he is yet to get any reprieve.
There are cases against the 23-year-old Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader in Visnagar, Padadhari and other places on charges like rioting and arson and making incendiary public utterances.
During the final hearing in the sedition cases, government counsel Mitesh Amin reiterated the oft-repeated position that Hardik could not be trusted to maintain peace if bailed out and that he could pose a threat to peace and law and order in the state.
Hardik Patel’s lawyer Zubin Bharda’s assurances, including one in writing, that the Patidar leader will continue his agitation peacefully without making it a public event did not go down well with the state counsel.
During the last hearing, Bharda had offered that his client was willing to stay out of Gujarat for six months.
The state had argued that geographical distances will not deter Hardik and he could well remote-control things through the social media and mobile Internet. However, this did not work.
One sedition case against the PAAS leader was lodged in Amroli police station of Surat district in October last year after he allegedly suggested to Vipul Desai, a co-accused in the case, before television camera to kill policemen if need be instead of committing suicide.
He was arrested from Rajkot and has been lodged in the Lajpore central jail in Surat ever since. Two other co-accused Chirag Desai and Vipul Desai, both from his Patel community, had got bail earlier.
Another sedition case was lodged against Hardik Patel and Chirag, Ketan and Dinesh Patel by the Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad police on charge of plotting a statewide violence after a massive pro-reservation rally here on August 25 last.
The three co-accused got conditional bail from the Gujarat High Court after no objection from the state and their undertaking not to participate in the agitation for reservation for the Patels under the Other Backward Castes, but Hardik Patel’s bail pleas were rejected by lower courts in Surat and Ahmedabad.