New Delhi: Showing reluctance to quash criminal proceedings against activist Swami Agnivesh for allegedly making a controversial statement about Amarnath pilgrimage, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said people's sentiments cannot be taken for granted and that he cannot go "scot free" if he has made the remark.
A bench of justices HL Dattu and CK Prasad, which was about to dismiss Agnivesh's petition seeking quashing of the criminal proceedings, however, adjourned the matter for Monday after he pleaded for more time to put forth his case.
"You cannot take sentiments of the people for granted," the bench said, noting that a large number of people go on Amarnath yatra in Jammu and Kashmir every year.
The observations by the bench came during hearing of Agnivesh's plea challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court order dismissing his petition for quashing of criminal proceedings against him for allegedly terming Amarnath yatra a "religious deception".
The bench said Agnivesh cannot go "scot-free" if he has made such a statement and added people in public life should be careful in their remarks as people's sentiments can be hurt.
"A person in public life should weigh words ten times before he speaks," it said.
Agnivesh, during a trip to Jammu in May, had allegedly said that he "does not understand why people go for such yatras" and had termed the "Shivlingam" that forms inside the Amarnath cave shrine a geographical phenomenon.
The apex court bench said that at this stage, there is no need to interfere as investigation is going on but adjourned the matter when former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Agnivesh, pleaded for a week's time to file an affidavit before it.
Subramanium contended that the statement was distorted and Agnivesh had immediately clarified his it. It was not meant to hurt people's sentiments, he pleaded.
"The statement was made in the context of arrangements made for the pilgrims. The intention was certainly not to hurt," he said.