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SC Directed Police Forces of Delhi, Uttarakhand & UP to take Cognizance of Offences Without Looking at Religion [Hate Speech]

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Hate Speech Law Insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 21 October 2022 at 21:13 IST

Giving one of the important orders in the case of hate speech, the Supreme Court ordered the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand Police to take cognizance of hate speech cases without any religious prejudice.

The order was passed by the bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, who expressed their utter shock over the statements made in the hate speeches against the minority community in the recent religious meet.

The Court, in its order, ordered authorities to issue directions to their subordinates on this matter without any religious bigotry. It is of utmost importance to maintain the secular nature of India.

The court also stressed that the police is within its right to take action in such cases in the future, even in the absence of registered complaint.

The court in its order asked the three police forces to file their responses and update over the cases of hate speeches ensued in their respective jurisdiction.

“File a response as to what action has been taken for the speeches highlighted,” 

According to Court, the words were disturbing and they also put question what impact religion was having on people.

Justice Joseph deplored, “Where have we reached? What have we reduced religion to? It is tragic. And we speak of scientific temper,”

Justice Roy chipped in that the statement are very shocking and aggressive for a country known for its religion neutrality.

The Court was hearing a plea filed by one Shaheen Abdulla seeking involvement by the Court to stop the “growing menace of targeting and terrorizing of the Muslim community in India”.

Members of the ruling party are suspected of being involved in hate crimes, physical attacks, and speeches with aggregation points elements directed at Muslims and other minority communities.

The petitioner stated that between December 17 and December 19, 2021, hate speeches consisting of direct demands for the eradication of Muslims were addressed by nine leaders at two separate meetings held in Delhi (by the Hindu Yuva Vahini) and Haridwar (by Yati Narsinghanand).

Similar events took place at Badarpur (Haryana) on September 4, Talkatora Stadium in Delhi on May 5, and Allahabad on January 29, 2022.

The plea also cited a programme broadcast on Aaj Tak news channel during prime time that claimed Muslim men entered the garba pandal to promote love jihad. While making this claim, the host displayed some field reports gathered for the research, which turned out to be an interview with the leader of the Bajrang Dal. 

The plea further describes it as a tacit support of the ruling party in government, stating these miscreants have no fear of any legal action as they continue to spit communal hate and cause disharmony without any obstruction.

The plea concluded with the strict action to be taken against such wrongdoer under the relevant penal statues – including the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act, 1967 including both the speakers as well as the organizations involved in activities that cause the against the speakers as well as the organizations engaging in activities that lead to spread of societal disturbance.

Additionally, the petitioner requested for a credible, unbiased, and independent investigation of incidences of hate crimes and hate speeches against the Muslim community.

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioner at the hearing on Friday, alleged that despite several complaints being filed, no action were taken so far. Sibal remarked it as the events happening on daily basis.

The bench questioned the counsel Kapil Sibal regarding his recommendation during his tenure as Law Minister.

Sibal replied back in the affirmative, adding that there was no agreement, however.

The Bench then asked whether there is any hate speeches made by Muslim community.

Sibal reverted that if so, then they should not be spared.

Justice Roy also reiterated that the Court also not  examine such statements against one community alone.

Asserting that Sibal said “This Court should not target any one [group]”

Over this, Justice Joseph exclaimed that, “Article 51A says we should develop a scientific temper. And where have we reached in the name of religion? It is tragic”

Directions issued:

1. Respondents 2 to 4 (Govts of Delhi, UP & Uttarakhand) will file a report as to what action has been taken in regards to acts as are the subject matter of this writ petition within their jurisdiction.

2. Respondents 2 to 4 shall ensure that immediately, as and when any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as Section 153A, 153B, 295A and 506 of IPC etc, without any complaint being filed suo motu action be taken to register cases and proceed against the offenders in accordance with law. We make it clear that any hesitation to act in accordance with these directions will be viewed as contempt of court and appropriate action shall be taken against the erring officers.

3. Respondents 2 to 4 will issue directions to the subordinates so that appropriate action can be taken at the earliest. We further make it clear that such action be taken irrespective of the religion of the maker of the speech, so that the secular character of Bharat as envisaged by the Preamble is preserved.