Hate speech: Delhi High Court gives govt month to reply
A day after the Delhi high court rapped the Delhi Police for inaction and asked it to take a “conscious decision” on filing FIRs into inflammatory speeches and slogans by political leaders, including four from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), another bench gave the Union government four weeks to reply on the matter.
The court allowed this time after Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta told the court that the atmosphere was “not conducive” to file cases at the moment. Mehta held a similar stand when the case was heard in the HC on Wednesday by justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh, who came down hard on the police, asked them to do a review, take a decision, and reply the next day.
On Thursday, the matter came before a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice C Hari Shankar.
The public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by social activist Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi, who sought the registration of FIRs into cases of hate speeches, a judicial probe by a retired judge, and other prayers.
PILs are usually heard by a bench headed by the chief justice. If unavailable, the case is heard by the next available senior judge bench. Once the chief justice’s bench becomes available again, the same case is often re-allotted to his bench.
“After having carefully considered all the materials, a conscious decision is taken to defer the decision on the questions (registration of the FIRs in the hate speech videos). Considering the prevailing situation, it is the considered opinion of the police authorities that any decision at this juncture may not be conducive for restoration of normalcy. The decision will be taken at an appropriate stage in accordance with the law,” Mehta said in an affidavit filed on Thursday.
He told the court that the petitioner chose some selective hate speeches, and was seeking FIRs only against them. He added that there was no urgency in the matter, and sought time to file a reply. He also filed an application in the court to implead the Union home ministry as a party to the case.
Mehta’s submissions were objected by Rahul Mehra, standing counsel of the Delhi government (criminal), who informed the court that 48 FIRs have been registered in the recent riots in north-east Delhi, where 38 people died and 350 others were injured.
Senior advocate Collin Gonsalves, representing the petitioners, told the court that FIRs can be registered now arrest can be made later. “FIR is only the initiation. Nobody is pressing for arrest at this moment. If the evidence is not found, then the FIR can be quashed. FIR should be registered and the arrest can be made later,” he said. The court posted the matter for April 13.
On Wednesday, when the Delhi Police told the court that they had not heard the speeches mentioned in the petition, the judges played clips of speeches or slogans by BJP leaders Parvesh Verma, Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra and Abhay Verma.
Though Thursday, three other impleadment applications were filed in the HC, all of them seeking FIRs against various political leaders for hate speech. In one of the pleas, filed by Sanjjiv Kumar, the petitioner sought FIRs against radio jockey Sayema, MLA Amanatullah Khan and actor Swara Bhasker. Another plea, by Lawyer’s Voice, sought registration of FIRs against Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Manish Sisodia and Mahmood Pracha. A third plea was filed by Hindu Sena chief Vishnu Gupta seeking FIRs against Akbaruddin Owaisi and Waris Pathan for making allegedly inflammatory speeches.
The matters were urgently mentioned before the chief justice, who allowed the matters to be listed on Friday.