Mumbai, Mar 9: The threat of slapping section 153 (A) of the Indian penal Code against Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray is not new as the Octogenarian leader had faced similar charges on 23 occasions in the last 24 years and had emerged unscathed for want of proof.
These cases have either been withdrawn, discharged or dropped as the Marathi lion continued to roar, spitting venom either in public forum or through the party mouthpiece ''Saamna'' either against his political opponents or in support of the Marathis.
Till date he has not been convicted in any of the 153-A charge.
The section in the IPC refers to setting up one class of people against another.
The Maharashtra Government has sought legal opinion to move against Mr Thackeray once again for his recent anti-Bihari remarks in ''Saamna''.
Even as leaders from the northern belt had been vociferously demanding stern action against the aging Sena leader, including a comment by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who accused the Centre and State governments of being mute spectators to such acts, two days ago the State Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil who holds the home portfolio said steps to take appropriate legal action against Mr Thackery was underway and the process was expected to complete within a week.
Since 1984 as many as 23 cases have been lodged against Mr Thackeray under section 153-A and till date he did not face any problem, except for once when he was arrested and released soon after he was produced in a court.
Among these cases a maximum number of 14 cases were registered at Dadar police station as the Sena's headquarter, Sena Bhavan falls under the limits of this Police station and a minimum of two cases have been registered at Shivaji Park police station where the city's famous Shivaji Park playground - the Sena Chief's regular haunting ground to address the annual Dassera Rally, is located.
The statistics also show that in 1984, when communal riots broke out at the powerloom city of Bhiwandi in Thane district and in Mumbai, the police had registered two cases against him for provoking the public, but they were withdrawn by the state government in the same year when Mr Vasantrao Patil was the chief minister.
In 1996, a total of 19 cases were booked against Mr Thackeray but were closed under the legal term of ''A'' classified on the grounds of lack of evidence. These cases include the two famous cases in which the local Bhoiwada court delivered its verdict in 2000 discharging the Sena chief from both the cases on technical grounds as the prosecution failed to file charges against him in the stipulated time.
Legal experts feel that successive governments did not make serious attempts to take stern action against Sena Chief in most of the cases. Due to the poor investigation, the charges against him were either not being proved or reached up to the level where court could pass an order.
Noted criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said the statements made by Mr Thackray were in his usual dangerous manner which often bordered on being offensive. He said the State Government should carefully examine the case and initiate an action with all sincerity.
Human Rights lawyer Mahesh Desai was of the opinion that proving an offence under Section 153(A), which can be applicable in the present case is a tough task. The rate of conviction under the section was almost nil and hence, before initiating any legal action, the government must examine all the evidences carefully.
Another former Bombay High Court public prosecutor Rashid Yasin Mirza said Mr Thackeray's latest remarks against Biharis, invites an action under section 153 (A) because he has targeted a class of people.
However, he reiterated the opinion of other legal luminaries that it was difficult to prove it, and that in its 100 year-old history, the Bombay High Court had only managed to wrapp up a similar trail against illustrious freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and convicted him for several charges - including Section 153-A.
Tilak became perhaps the first and the only major political leader to be convicted under section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860.
He was charged for his editorial in Kesari on May 12, 1908 and was arrested in May and sentenced to six years after the case came up for hearing on July 17, 1908 before Justice Davar and a jury comprising six Europeans and three Parsees.
He was found guilty by a verdict of seven to two. That was when he uttered the immortal lines that are still etched on a plaque outside the court room, ''All I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I maintain that I am innocent.''