The Delhi High Court on Monday rejected a plea by CPI(M) leaders Brinda Karat and K.M. Tiwari seeking registration of an FIR against Union Minister and BJP leader Anurag Thakur and party MP Parvesh Verma for their alleged hate speeches against anti-CAA protesters in January 2020.
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said the Delhi police in their status report had specifically stated that no cognisable offence was made out against Mr. Thakur and Mr. Verma in the case. The court refused to interfere with the August 26, 2020 decision of a trial court, which said sanctions were required for registration of an FIR against the two leaders.
Speeches made n 2020
Ms. Karat had said in her plea that on January 27, 2020, Mr. Thakur allegedly made a hate speech at a public rally in Rithala, inciting the crowd to “shoot the traitors”. On Mr. Verma, the complaint had stated that on January 28, 2020, he made false, provocative and communal statements against the anti-CAA-NRC protests in Shaheen Bagh.
The CPI(M) leader had sought the registration of an FIR against the two BJP leaders under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
The trial court had rejected her plea stating that a prior sanction of the Central government was required at the stage of ordering of registration of FIRs as both Mr. Thakur and Mr. Verma were Members of Parliament.
Agreeing with the trial court’s order, Justice Singh said, “If such investigations are ordered in a routine manner for 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 judge added.
Justice Singh observed that Ms. Karat and Mr. Tiwari had the option of approaching the revisional court against the trial court’s order but they approached the High Court directly. The judge said the petitioners “have failed to satisfy the court and no case is made out warranting the intervention of this court at this stage”.
‘Strict action needed’
In the 66-page-judgment, Justice Singh quoted a shloka from Bhagwad Gita to emphasise that “whatever action is performed by a leader, the common men follow in his footsteps; and whatever standards he sets by his acts are pursued by his subjects”.
He also made a reference to another popular quote from the Spider-Man movies — “ With great power comes great responsibility” — to stress that hate speeches especially delivered by elected representatives, political and religious leaders based on religion, caste, region or ethnicity warrant stringent peremptory action on the part of Central and State governments.
“Hate speeches incite violence and feelings of resentment against members of specific communities, thereby causing fear and feeling of insecurity in the minds of the members of those communities… Hate speeches are the beginning point of attacks against the targeted community that can range from discrimination to ostracism, ghettoisation, deportation and even to genocide,” Justice Singh remarked.
“There have even been instances of demographic shifts in the aftermath of such hate/inflammatory speeches; the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley is a prime example,” the judge said.
He pointed out that Article 19 of the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression with reasonable restrictions, including public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. “Hate speeches not only cause defamation but also incite offences against a particular sect of religion of this nation,” the judge said.
This article first appeared on thehindu.com