SC notice to Union govt, Delhi & Uttarakhand cops over hate speech conclaves

The petition, filed by journalist Qurban Ali and senior advocate Anjana Prakash, also sought an investigation into the two recent ‘Dharam Sansads’ at Delhi and Haridwar.
File image of the Supreme Court of India
File image of the Supreme Court of India
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, January 12, asked the Union government, Delhi Police and Uttarakhand Police to respond to a plea seeking direction to ensure investigation and action against those who allegedly made hate speeches during two recent events in Haridwar and Delhi. A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana, which agreed to hear the plea and issued notice on it, permitted the petitioners to make representations to the concerned local authorities against holding of future ‘Dharam Sansad' events there. The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, posted the matter for hearing after 10 days.

The apex court was hearing a petition filed by journalist Qurban Ali and former Patna High Court judge and senior advocate Anjana Prakash, who have also sought a direction for an "independent, credible and impartial investigation" by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the incidents of hate speeches against the Muslim community. After the bench said it was issuing notice on the plea and listed it for hearing after 10 days, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioners, said the only problem is that in the meantime a Dharam Sansad is scheduled to be held on January 23 in Aligarh, and they don't want it to happen.

Sibal requested the bench to list the matter for hearing on January 17 and said they would serve all the respondents by then. “We will permit you to make a representation to the concerned authorities. Let them act upon it,” the bench said. The apex court permitted the petitioners to bring it to the notice of local authorities about such events, which are going to take place, and which according to the petitioners, are contrary to the penal law.

The plea, which specifically referred to the "hate speeches" delivered between December 17 and December 19 at Haridwar and Delhi, has also sought compliance of apex court's guidelines to deal with such speeches. One event was organised in Haridwar allegedly by Yati Narsinghanand and the other in Delhi by 'Hindu Yuva Vahini' allegedly "calling for genocide of members" of the Muslim community, it said.

The bench observed that it would issue notice to the states and let them come before it.

Sibal contended that a notice be issued to the Union government also, because as per the apex court's earlier judgement, they have to appoint nodal officers to prevent these kinds of incidents.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising mentioned an intervention application on behalf of Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Jaising said it was on Tushar Gandhi's petition that the apex court had rendered a decision in 2019 saying all states must appoint a nodal officer to ensure that mob lynching does not take place. “My simple application is that the judgement of the court is not being implemented. Kindly allow the intervention, that's all I am asking for,” she said.

The bench observed that for the time being, it is issuing notice to the respondents on the plea listed before it.

Sibal said the "events are overtaking us" and Dharam Sansads are being announced on a daily basis. “Let the returnable date be as soon as possible because they have announced another Dharam Sansad. The next one is on January 23 in Aligarh, in the midst of what is happening in Uttar Pradesh today,” he said.

The CJI observed that this is a matter which has to be heard but the point is whether any other bench is already hearing a similar plea. One of the advocates appearing in the matter said there are some matters generally on hate speech which are pending but it is not related to Dharam Sansad'.\

“You hear this separately. What is being done. No quick steps are being taken. Dharam Sansad' (events) are being held in Kurukshetra, Dasna, Aligarh and in states where process of elections is going on. This attracts several provisions,” Sibal said.

“What will happen is that the atmosphere of the entire country will be vitiated. This is all contrary to what this Republic stands for. It is contrary to the ethos and the values which we cherish,” he said.

The Uttarakhand Police had filed an FIR on December 23 last year under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code against some persons, including Sant Dharamdas Maharaj, Sadhvi Annapoorna alias Pooja Shakun Pandey, Yati Narsinghanand and Sagar Sindhu Maharaj, in connection with the Haridwar Dharam Sansad. A similar complaint was filed with the Delhi Police for the second event organised in the national capital.

The plea said that no effective steps have been taken by Uttarakhand and Delhi police regarding the matter. Till date, no FIR has been lodged by Delhi Police despite calls for ethnic cleansing at the event organised in Delhi, it said.

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