| GEO World|
| Indian SC drops charges against Varun Gandhi|
| Updated at: 2048 PST, Thursday, May 14, 2009|
NEW DELHI: India's top court Thursday ordered charges dropped against Varun Gandhi, an estranged member of the Nehru-Gandhi political clan, for inciting religious hatred while election campaigning.
Gandhi, 29, had been on parole for a month following his arrest under the stringent National Security Act by the Uttar Pradesh state government in March.
He was taken into custody after being filmed telling supporters at an election rally that he would "cut the heads of Muslims".
"The state government shall forthwith withdraw the detention order against Varun Gandhi under the NSA (National Security Act)," ruled a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, according to the India’s official news agency.
The court had initially ordered Gandhi's release on April 16 on the condition he refrain from making any speeches that could inflame communal tensions in Hindu-majority India.
A great-grandson of India's first premier Jawaharlal Nehru, Varun Gandhi has broken with the "first family" of Indian politics by joining the opposition Hindu nationalists, rather than the secular-minded Congress Party that the Nehru-Gandhi lineage has dominated since independence.
Gandhi was one of the candidates seeking election Wednesday on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket in the last phase of India's five-stage national polls.
Exit polls suggested the incumbent Congress coalition was narrowly ahead of the Hindu nationalist alliance but the final results of the general elections will only be announced Saturday.
The Supreme Court's decision came after the Uttar Pradesh state advisory board said the charges laid against Gandhi under the National Security Act -- normally used against dangerous criminals -- should be dropped.
The board said it did not find "convincing" grounds for the act to be invoked against Gandhi while the BJP called the charges "politically motivated."
Under the act, an accused can be detained up to one year without bail.
Gandhi had said the recording of his speech, widely aired on Indian TV, had been doctored but India's Election Commission said it found no evidence of tampering.