Dharm Sansads: SC Pulls Up Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh For Lax Approach
The Supreme Court has sharply pulled up the Uttarakhand government for its failure to explain how it will prevent hate speeches from being made during the upcoming Dharam Sansad scheduled to be held in Roorkee. Holding the Chief Secretary of the state responsible for possible lapses, the SC bench headed by AM Khanwilkar and also comprising Abhay Srinivas Oka and CT Ravikumar further directed him to place on record the corrective measures to taken by them in case the situation gets out of hand.
Justice Khanwilkar told the Deputy Advocate General of the State of Uttarakhand Jatinder Kumar Sethi, “You will have to take immediate action. Don't make us say something. There are other ways of preventive action. You know how to do it!”
On December 19-21, incendiary statements calling for the arming of Hindus and the killing of Muslims were made at a similar Dharm Sansad in Haridwar. The long overdue directions from the Supreme Court came at a hearing that took place on April 26, 2022. The court has also issued clear directions for prevention of such actions in the future.
The bench presided by Justice AM Khanwilkar, today, was quoted by BarandBench saying, “We are informed another Dharam sansad is planned in Roorkee tomorrow and another application has been filed against it. Counsel for Uttarakhand submits that all preventive measures have been taken as per SC decisions. Uttarakhand says authorities are confident that no such untoward statement will be made during the event and all steps as per decisions of this court will be taken. We direct Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand to place above position on record and apprise us about the corrective measures.”
The Court also directed the State of Himachal Pradesh to file an affidavit stating the preventive steps that were taken before the Dharam Sansad event in Una and the implementation of the guidelines previously laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India (2018) 9 SCC 501.
With respect to the Dharam Sansad event held in Una, Himachal Pradesh, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners informed the court that the Collector and Superintendent of Police did not do anything to stop the event despite it being brought to their notice. The Court reportedly asked, “There are guidelines in Poonawalla case. Are you following it? No prevention has been taken. You had to stop it. File affidavit showing what preventive actions were taken by you.”
In their defence, the State informed the court that they had issued notifications under Section 64 of the Himachal Pradesh Police Act, which states,
“All persons shall be bound to comply with the reasonable and lawful directions given by a Police Officer in the discharge of his duties under this Act. Where any person resists, refuses or fails to comply with any such direction, a Police Officer may, without prejudice to any other action, remove such person or arrest and produce him before the nearest Judicial Magistrate having jurisdiction as soon as possible and in any case within a period of twenty-four hours”.
However, the court was interested in knowing the preventive steps that were undertaken by them and most importantly whether they reacted to the situation immediately. The court was quoted by BarandBench saying, “This did not happen suddenly, it was planned and notice was given. You have to explain did you immediately react to the situation or not. Explain the preventive steps taken.” Most importantly, Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal brought to the attention of the court that despite notifications issued under Section 64 of the Himachal Pradesh Police Act, as claimed by the State, no arrests had been made.
The said pleas were filed by the petitioners (former Patna High Court judge Anjana Prakash and journalist Qurban Ali) in connection with the original writ petition seeking criminal action against the alleged anti-Muslim hate speeches made at the ‘Dharam Sansad’ in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and Delhi in December 2021.
During the last hearing on April 22, 2022, Senior Counsel Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, had submitted that the petitioners have filed a fresh interlocutory application in view of some scandalous things said at the event in Una but the bench posted the application to April 26,2022 since the cause list did not notify the appearance of the Counsel of the State of Himachal Pradesh.
The saffron clad hate speech maker, Yati Narsinghanand had previously given an anti-Muslim speech in Una, Himachal Pradesh. At yet another 'Dharma Sansad' of Akhil Bharatiya Sant Parishad in Una district, he repeated his imaginary theory of an “increasing population of Muslims in the country” and that this was “indicating the decline of Hindus”. Once again, Yati, a ‘monk’ therefore celibate, and with no children, had said, “Hindus should produce more children to protect their family and Sanatan Dharma.”
With respect to the upcoming Dharam Sansad event to be held in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, the Counsel for the State said in its defence that they cannot anticipate what will be said at a religious conclave, to which the Court responded, “If it is by the same person then you have to prevent it. Don’t make us say things. Precautionary and preventive measure have to be taken.”
In yet another feeble defence, the Counsel for the State reportedly stated that “It is an attempt to colour a community in a certain way and the community they are trying to protect is also here. We are maintaining harmony.” The Court lashed out at them saying, “This is not the way to address in court. If this happens again, we have to ask the Chief Secretary to remain present.”
The State reportedly submitted that the Chief Secretary said they will do their best to prevent any such situation. The Court reportedly stated, “It is your duty, you are not doing us a favour.”
One of the main contentions raised before the bench in the original petition was that the Uttarakhand Police had not made any arrests in the case and the Delhi Police have not even registered an FIR. The petition sought directions to the police authorities to comply with the guidelines laid down by it in Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India (2018) 9 SCC 501 and to consequently define the contours of 'duty of care in investigation' to be undertaken by the police authorities, reported LiveLaw.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court expressed its dissatisfaction with the affidavit filed by Delhi Police with respect to the speeches made by Sudarshan News TV Editor Suresh Chavhanke at the Delhi Dharam Sansad in December 2021 and directed them to file a ‘better affidavit’ by May 4, 2022. According to LiveLaw, the bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Abhay S Oka asked, “The affidavit has been filed by Deputy Commissioner of Police. We hope he has understood the nuances. Has he merely reproduced the inquiry report or applied his mind? Is it your stand as well or the reproduction of inquiry report of Sub inspector level?”
In their affidavit the Police said, “After a deep inquiry and evaluation of the contents of the video, the police did not find any substance in the videos as per the allegations levelled by the complainants. In the video clip of the Delhi incident, there is no utterance against any particular community. Hence, after inquiry and after evaluation of the alleged video clip, it was concluded that the alleged hate speech did not disclose any hate words against a particular community as alleged.”
On the same day, the Supreme Court also considered a petition filed by three retired officers of the Armed Forces (Major General SG Vombatkere, Colonel PK Nair and Major Priyadarshi Chowdhary) through Advocates Senthil Jagadeesan and Vinayak Bhandari seeking probe by a new Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged hate speeches delivered at the Dharam Sansad religious events organised at Haridwar and Delhi between December 17 and 19, 2021.
The petitioners submitted, “We are highly decorated officers of the Army. The regiments and the troops which they have controlled during their careers, those subordinate to them, are drawn from various and different communities. The petition is essentially directed against aspects of hate speech which were made between 17th and 19th of December 2021.”
The petitioners have opined that such hate speeches can even affect the battle efficiency of our Armed Forces and in turn compromise national security. The petitioners have argued that such incitement to violence together with public expressions of hate constitute a serious breach of internal security and could also tear apart the social character of our nation, as reported by LiveLaw.
The Court still directed that the copy of Uttarakhand’s response to the previous matter, and Delhi Police Commissioner’s reply affidavit in the leading case, be made available to Counsel Divan, as it thinks that it is possible that the issues raised by the petitioners in the previous matter pertaining to events unfolded in the state of Uttarakhand may be similar to the issues raised in the original writ petition.
The Court has listed all the matters to be heard on May 9, 2022.
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