NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Monday said that hate speeches made by elected representatives, political and religious leaders warrant stringent action since they can incite violence and feelings of resentment against members of specific communities.
The court made these observations while dismissing a petition by CPM leaders Brinda Karat and KM Tiwari challenging a trial court’s refusal to direct the registration of an FIR against Union minister Anurag Thakur and his BJP colleague and MP Pravesh Verma for their alleged hate speeches during the CAA protests.
While Justice Chandra Dhari Singh refused to interfere with the trial court’s order, he made some stinging remarks about political leaders spewing hate speeches laced with communal undertones.
Here are some of the observations …
* The court observed there have been instances of hate speeches in India targeted against people of specific communities, based upon the demographic composition which led to demographic shifts in the country in their aftermath.
* The court cited the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir valley as a prime example of such acts.
* It stated that mass leaders and those occupying high offices must conduct themselves with utmost integrity and responsibility and it does not befit or behove the leaders to indulge in acts or speeches that cause rifts amongst communities, create tensions, and disrupt the social fabric in the society.
* The judge said elected leaders in a democracy owe their responsibility not only to their electorate but also towards the society and nation as a whole and ultimately to the Constitution.
* “Hate speeches especially delivered by elected representatives, political and religious leaders based on religion, caste, region or ethnicity militate against the concept of fraternity, bulldoze the constitutional ethos, and violates Articles 14, 15, 19, 21 read with Article 38 of the Constitution and is in blatant derogation of the fundamental duties prescribed under Article 51-A (a), (b), (c), (e), (f), (i), (j) of the Constitution and therefore warrant stringent peremptory action on the part of Central and State Governments,” said the court.
* The court said that effective regulation of ‘hate speeches’ at all levels is required and all the law enforcing agencies must ensure that the existing law is not rendered a dead letter.
* The court also quoted a shloka from Bhagwad Gita to emphasise that “whatever action is performed by a leader, common men follow in his footsteps; and whatever standards he sets by his acts, are pursued by his subjects”.
Plea against Thakur, Verma dismissed
The high court, meanwhile, refused to interfere with the trial court’s order and said that under the law, the requisite sanction is required to be obtained from the competent authority for the registration of FIR in the present facts.
The judge, who had reserved the verdict on March 25, noted that the Delhi Police had conducted a preliminary inquiry in the matter and informed the trial court that prima facie no cognizable offence was made out and that for ordering any investigation, the trial court was required to take cognizance of the facts and evidence before it, which was not permissible without a valid sanction.
The high court concluded that the trial court therefore rightly decided the petitioners’ plea on the point of its maintainability in the absence of a sanction.
The petitioners had claimed in their complaint before the trial court that “Thakur and Verma had sought to incite people as a result of which three incidents of firing took place at two different protest sites in Delhi”.
It was the petitioners’ grievance that at the Rithala rally in Delhi, Thakur had, on January 27, 2020, egged on the crowd to raise an incendiary slogan — “shoot the traitors” — after lashing out at anti-CAA protesters.
They had further claimed that Verma had, on January 28, 2020, allegedly made incendiary comments against the anti-CAA protesters in Shaheen Bagh.
The high court said “The (trial) court cannot direct registration of FIR or investigation into an offence while exercising power under Section 156(3) of Code (of Criminal Procedure) concerning offence where the sanction is required to be taken before a court can take cognizance,”
“Once the investigating agency upon conducting its preliminary inquiry, has come to the conclusion that prima facie no cognizable offence is made out, the ACMM must apply its mind to direct the investigation or for registration of FIR. However, as discussed earlier, for the purpose of ordering any investigation, the ACMM in the instant case would be required to take cognizance of the facts/evidence before it, which is not permissible without there being a valid sanction,” the high court said.
In its 66-page order, the high court noted that an “additional layer of scrutiny albeit discretionary” is provided under Section 196(3) of the Code by way of a sanction to avoid ordering an investigation into certain offences, including those concerning hate speeches, in a “routine manner.”
“If such investigations are ordered in a routine manner for the offences under Section 295-A, 153-A, and Section 505, that would lead to a situation where thousands of FIRs would be registered to settle scores against political opponents across the country. This would not only be undesirable and an abuse of process but would also result in choking of the already overburdened criminal justice machinery,” the high court stated.
(With inputs from PTI)

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