Weeks after it supported senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s prosecution over hate speech against Muslims in his book on terrorism, the NDA government has made a U-turn on the issue before the Supreme Court.
In a fresh affidavit, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has told the top court that its earlier submission – accusing Swamy of promoting hatred and enmity between two communities – was not a comment on the criminal case pending against him but merely a statement of fact about his prosecution.
The government had on October 28 filed an affidavit in response to Swamy’s public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional validity of section 153A of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises hate speech intended to incite enmity between communities.
Swamy also wants the top court to restrain courts from proceeding with the hate speech cases filed against him following the publication of his book, Terrorism in India, in 2007.
In that affidavit, the government asserted Swamy had violated the law because the book’s “theme, its language, its innuendoes, the similies it employs and the moral of its story, if any – in order to ascertain whether the offending passages read in the context of the book as a whole fall within the mischief of section 153 A. The book has to be considered in all its aspects as it contains matter which promotes feelings of enmity and hatred between Hindus and Muslims in India.”
The fresh affidavit, however, seeks to clarify the Centre’s stand. Referring to the paragraph against Swamy, it states: “… the submissions made in the counter affidavit, particularly the contents of paragraph 11 (of the October 28 affidavit) apart from supporting the validity of the provisions of law challenged by the petitioner (Swamy), what is stated is merely the statement of fact and is not any expression/opinion or decision of the answering respondent (MHA).”
Reacting to the government’s U-turn, Swamy tweeted: “PM found out and conveyed government displeasure thus the amendment (sic).”
The government has already rejected Swamy’s demand to declare the IPC provision on hate speech as unconstitutional.
“There may be disharmony between various classes, affecting the peace and order of the society… Unity of the country has to be preserved t all costs. Divisive forces cannot be allowed to prosper,” the MHA had said in its October affidavit. If it’s not retained in the law books, there may be riots or commission of offenses, the government had said.