Udayanidhi Stalin’s Sanatan Dharma comments abuse of right to free speech: SC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Udayanidhi Stalin’s Sanatan Dharma comments abuse of right to free speech: SC

ByAbraham Thomas
Mar 04, 2024 01:54 PM IST

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader Udayanidhi Stalin’s comments in September that “Sanatana Dharma should be eradicated” triggered an uproar

The Supreme Court on Monday called Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader Udayanidhi Stalin’s comments in September that “Sanatana Dharma should be eradicated” an abuse of the right to free speech while asking him to be careful given his position as a Tamil Nadu minister.

Tamil Nadu minister Udayanidhi Stalin. (PTI)
Tamil Nadu minister Udayanidhi Stalin. (PTI)

“You are not a layman. You are a minister...should have realised the consequences of your remarks,” said a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta while hearing Stalin’s petition for clubbing criminal cases registered against him over the remarks in six states.

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Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Stalin, told the court that the comments were made at a closed-door meeting and not at a public function. “I am running away. I will win or lose in these cases. But there cannot be persecution of a person before prosecution. All cases emerge from one statement.”

He argued that making his client run around across states amounted to persecution. “There are cases against me in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, and Mumbai,” he said citing Article 32, which grants the right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights.

The court said Article 32 cannot be a remedy after a person has abused fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a) for free speech and expression and Article 25 (freedom to practice and propagate religion)

“You abuse your Article 19(1)(a)...Article 25... Now you want to exercise your Article 32...Do you know the consequences of what you said,” the bench said.

The court initially suggested Singhvi approach individual high courts. “You are seeking all cases to be clubbed... Why should a witness from Jammu and Kashmir travel to Tamil Nadu?”

When the court said it was unaware of the stage at which the cases were pending, Singhvi pointed out a charge sheet had been filed in one of the cases in Bengaluru. He added orders for clubbing cases were issued in dealing with similar situations facing journalists Arnab Goswami, Amish Devgan, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma, and fact checker Mohammad Zubair.

The court agreed to consider these judgments and the proceedings in each of the cases against Stalin before the next date of hearing on March 15.

Two petitions seeking Stalin’s criminal prosecution for his remarks remain pending before the Supreme Court.

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