The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Maharashtra’s Yavatmal and Chhattisgarh’s Raipur to ensure no hate speeches are made at rallies being held by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Telangana BJP legislator T Raja Singh over the next one week in their respective jurisdictions.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, however, refused to stay the rallies, saying the parties the applicant has voiced apprehensions about are not before the court.
It advised the DMs and SPs of the two districts to install CCTV cameras at the venue of the proposed rallies with recording facility so that those making hate speeches can be identified, in case they deliver one.
The court asked the authorities to be cautious and ensure there is no incitement to violence.
“We accordingly direct the District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police of Yavatmal, Maharashtra and Raipur, Chhattisgarh to take notice of the allegations and take appropriate steps as required. If necessary and deemed appropriate, police will install CCTV cameras with recording facilities so that perpetrators can be identified if anything happens,” the bench said in its order.
It passed the order on an application moved in the pending plea of journalist Shaheen Abdulla highlighting instances of hate speech at such events.
Abdulla said in his application that Hindu Janajagruti Samiti is scheduled to hold a rally in Yavatmal on January 18 and voiced apprehension about hate speeches being made there. He said controversial BJP MLA from Telangana T Raja Singh is set to address rallies in Raipur, the Chhattisgarh capital, from January 19 to January 25. He feared hate speeches might be made at Singh’s rallies, too.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and lawyer Nizam Pasha, who appeared for Abdulla, contended during the hearing that no action was being taken against those promoting hate through their speeches.
“We have gone through the petition and there are certainly objectionable remarks which have been made. But some action has been taken and they (police) have lodged FIR,” Justice Khanna said.
“What action has been taken? Nothing. Besides lodging of FIR, nothing has been done. Now they are about to hold another rally,” Sibal retorted.
The bench said it cannot preempt a rally on a mere apprehension about the possibility of hate speeches being made there. It, however, said the court can take action if there is any incitement to violence as there are orders to this effect.
When Sibal insisted on a court order staying these rallies, Justice Datta said, “Is he (Singh) a party in the petition? Look at your prayer which is to ensure permission is not granted to ‘X’ or withdraw permission if already granted? How can we pass this order without this person being a party or hearing from them?” Citing a Supreme Court order, Justice Khanna told Sibal a nodal officer is to be appointed in each district to keep a tab on hate speeches.
Sibal then requested the court to issue directions to the district magistrates of Yavatmal and Raipur to act if hate speeches are made at these events.
Abdulla’s application said Hindu Janajagruti Samiti has been actively involved in organising events where speeches are delivered openly demonising the Muslim community and calling for their boycott. The outfit organised last such event on January 3 in Maharashtra’s Solapur district. Abdulla told the court it is holding another rally on January 18 in Yavatmal district.
Similarly, Abdulla brought to the court’s notice the events to be held in Raipur district by BJP leader Singh. He referred to multiple cases the lawmaker from Telangana was facing over alleged hate speeches he delivered.
On November 29, 2023, the Supreme Court had said it was looking to put in place an administrative machinery to deal with hate speeches across the country and made it clear that it cannot handle each and every such matter as it will lead to a virtual flood of cases.
The Supreme Court had said it has already defined what constitutes hate speech and the question now is of implementation of its directions.
On October 21, 2022, the Supreme Court had directed Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand to crack down on those making hate speeches, calling them shocking for a country that is religion-neutral.
Holding that the Constitution of India envisages a secular nation, the court had directed the three states to promptly register criminal cases against offenders without waiting for a complaint to be filed.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)