SC issues notice to Udhayanidhi Stalin over his ‘eradicate Sanatan Dharma’ remarks
The SC bench issued notices to the state government and Udhayanidhi even as it observed that the petitioner had the option of approaching the jurisdictional high court in first instance
The Supreme Court on Friday sought responses from the Tamil Nadu government and Udhayanidhi Stalin, the state minister for youth welfare and sports development and son of chief minister MK Stalin, to a petition that sought the registration of an FIR against Udhayanidhi for his comments earlier this month that ‘Sanatan Dharma’ was against the idea of social justice and that it must be eradicated.
A bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi issued notices to the state government and Udhayanidhi even as it observed that the petitioner had the option of approaching the jurisdictional high court in first instance.
“Why are you here? You go to the high court. Your prayer is that an FIR is to be registered. You are transforming us into a police station,” observed the bench, adding the high court was equally competent to pass the order as requested in the petition.
However, the senior lawyer, representing the petitioner, pointed out that a batch of matters relating to hate speech was pending before the Supreme Court. “When the state itself unleashes tirade against a particular religion and forces the children to speak against a particular religion, the Supreme Court is the only remedy. There is a circular issued by the state authorities two days ago that children would speak against Sanatan Dharma,” he added.
The senior counsel said that this was a case where a constitutional authority was raking up religious feelings, and therefore, the apex court must step in.
The bench was initially disinclined to entertain the petition filed by B Jagannath, a lawyer practicing in the Madras high court, but it finally agreed to admit the plea and issue notices. Those arrayed as respondents in the petition also include Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Charitable Endowment minister Sekar Babu, Lok Sabha member of Parliament A Raja, DMK president Veeramani K Veeramani and chairman of Tamil Nadu State Minorities Commission Peter Alphonse.
Addressing a conference organised in Chennai by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Artists Association on the theme of ‘eradication of Sanatan’ on September 2, Udhayanidhi said that Sanatana was against the idea of social justice and that it had to be eradicated. “A few things cannot be opposed, that should be abolished only. We can’t oppose dengue, mosquitoes, malaria, or corona. We have to eradicate this, that’s how we have to eradicate Sanatana,” Udhayanidhi was quoted as saying on the day.
Even as his comments kicked up a massive political row, with several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders attacking Udhayanidhi for his controversial remarks, the minister later said he stands by his words and is “ready to face any legal challenge”.
On September 7, Tamil Nadu CM defended the statements of his cabinet colleague and son, saying they were aimed at the principles that discriminate against Scheduled Castes, tribals, and women.
Jagannath’s petition in the top court alleged that the September 2 conference was organised to incite eradication of a specific religion and to target Hinduism – which, he claimed, was also referred to as ‘Sanatan Dharma’.
Maintaining that it is a textbook case of “hate speech”, Jagannath sought action against Udhayanidhi for harbouring and expressing such hatred against Hindus. The plea said that if no FIR is filed against Udhayanidhi and the organisers of the conference, it is clear that there is bias, favouritism and discrimination against Hindus in the state.
The petitioner pointed out that in a 2018 judgment, the Supreme Court mandated the appointment of a nodal officer to combat hate speeches and register FIRs wherever warranted, but the Tamil Nadu government is yet to comply with the court order.
There are at least two more pleas pending before different benches of the Supreme Court for action against the DMK minister. One of these applications is pending before a bench which has been monitoring the steps taken by the Centre and the states to comply with the guidelines laid down in its 2018 judgment in the Tehseen Poonawala Case. The 2018 judgment laid down extensive guidelines and preventive steps to be taken by states to curb instances of mob lynching and hate speeches.