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Stop hate speech, violence at Nuh protests, says SC

NEW DELHI : There should be no hate speech or violence at a series of protests planned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Delhi and the national capital region (NCR) to protest against the sectarian violence over the past few days in Haryana’s Nuh district, the Supreme Court told the Centre, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi on Wednesday.

It was responding to an urgent application fby one Shaheen Adbullah in a pending matter, also filed by him, to curb instances of hate speech across the country. A request was made to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for an urgent listing of the case on the grounds that these protest meetings were meant to incite hatred and strife between religious communities.

“We hope and trust that the state authorities, including police agencies will ensure there is no hate speech against any community, no damage is caused to any property, and wherever required adequate police or paramilitary forces are deployed,” said a hurriedly constituted bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and S.V.N. Bhatti, which took up the application for hearing at 2 pm.

The bench issued notice on the application and asked additional solicitor general (ASG) S.V. Raju, appearing for the Centre, to communicate the order to the governments of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

“Whatever rule of law is, it has to be maintained. Let the authorities take all such action to ensure there is no law and order situation, no hate speech and no violence, particularly against women.”

Posting the matter for Friday, the bench said, “Wherever police suspects violence, the police will make use of CCTV cameras where installed or make video recording in all sensitive areas wherever required.” The Court further asked the states and police authorities to preserve the CCTV footage and video recording of the events.

As the matter was urgently taken up, the Union’s law officer told the court that he had barely gone through the application. Even the judges who were assigned the matter at short notice asked the applicant if any hate speech had been made in these protests.

Senior advocate C.U. Singh, arguing for the application, informed the Court that 23 protests were planned in Delhi and in some of these events hate speeches have been made. He pointed out that some more meetings are to take place at sensitive areas in West Delhi.

The application, filed by advocate Sumita Hazarika, requested for prohibiting these protest meetings. “Given the fact that the situation in Nuh and Gurgaon continues to be extremely tense and even the slightest provocation could result in serious loss of life and damage to property, rallies that are likely to fan communal fires and incite people to resort to violence, ought not to be permitted,” it argued.

The application produced evidence of two rallies conducted by the Bajrang Dal on Tuesday in Bhiwani, Haryana where an open call was given to kill Muslims. In another such rally on Tuesday by the same organisation at Najafgarh, slogans inciting communal violence were made.

“Such rallies that demonize communities and openly call for violence and killing of people are not limited in terms of their impact to just those areas that are presently dealing with communal tensions but will inevitably lead to communal disharmony and violence of an unfathomable scale across the country,” the application pointed out.

The bench pointed out that in the hate speech matter, the top court had issued an order on October 21, 2022 asking authorities of all states and police agencies not to permit any hate speech. “There cannot be any quarrel on the proposition that hate speech vitiates peaceful environment in society. Authorities are aware of it and they certainly have to take action.”

ASG Raju told the Court that undoubtedly, the October 2022 ruling binds all states. “We are bound to comply with this Court’s order. There is a presumption by the applicant that we wont.”

Singh told the Court that the October 2022 order was reiterated on January 13 this year by the top court after it came across fresh instances of hate speech across the country.

Earlier in the day, the application was mentioned before a bench headed by justice Aniruddha Bose who directed the petitioner to approach CJI who was sitting in a Constitution bench hearing petitions challenging scrapping of Article 370. The matter was brought before CJI DY Chandrachud who assured Singh that as soon as a mail is sent to Registry, the matter shall be listed urgently.

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Updated: 02 Aug 2023, 09:36 PM IST

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