Act against violence, hate speech at VHP rallies, says Supreme Court

The court directed the Centre and the States to consult with each other to ensure there was no law and order situations at the demonstrations

August 02, 2023 03:20 pm | Updated 11:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Heavy security deployed in view of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad  protest against the violence in Haryana’s Nuh district, at a petrol pump in Badarpur in southeast Delhi on August 2, 2023.

Heavy security deployed in view of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad protest against the violence in Haryana’s Nuh district, at a petrol pump in Badarpur in southeast Delhi on August 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

A Special Bench of the Supreme Court did not stay “demonstrations” by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal in the Delhi-NCR region on Wednesday. The Bench, headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, restricted itself to passing an “omnibus” order urging the Centre and the police to take steps to prevent instances of any violence and hate speech at the “rallies”.

“There cannot be a quarrel on the point that hate speech vitiates the atmosphere… Authorities must take precautions that no violence, no hate speech is made. The Union government should immediately get in touch with the States’ authorities concerned… Rule of law has to be maintained,” Justice Khanna observed orally.

The court directed the Centre and the States to consult with each other to ensure there was no law and order situations at the demonstrations. The Bench directed CCTV and video coverage of the events and preservation of the recordings made.

October 2022 order

The Bench reminded the Centre of the Supreme Court’s order on October 21, 2022 directing police and State authorities to suo motu register cases against hate speech makers without waiting for a complaint to be filed

The top court had in its October 2022 order directed that First Information Reports (FIRs) should be registered and criminal proceedings initiated against the makers of hate speech “irrespective of their religion so that the secular character of the country is preserved”.

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju said the Centre would “definitely try” to ensure that nothing untoward happens. “We are bound by the court’s orders,” Mr. Raju assured.

The plea, represented by senior advocate C.U. Singh and Nizam Pasha, said “23 protest marches are coming to the capital and there is violence in the neighbouring State of Haryana”.

He said though the notices describe the events as “demonstrations”, there were already instances of hate speech.

“Hate speech is happening… There are five more demonstrations scheduled in very sensitive areas,” Mr. Singh highlighted.

Justice Khanna indicated that the authorities would be aware of the precautions to be taken to avoid violence.

“No government will like any violence happening within their jurisdiction,” Justice Khanna addressed Mr. Singh.

The case was listed for an out-of-turn hearing after Mr. Singh mentioned it before two separate Benches, stressing the need for an urgent intervention by the apex court.

The Special Bench listed the case again for Friday.

The October 2022 order had rued how hate speeches made the atmosphere toxic when “the Constitution envisages Bharat as a secular nation and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the country is one of the guiding principles enshrined in the Preamble”. It had said there cannot be fraternity unless members of the different communities and castes were able to live in harmony.

The petition, filed by Shaheen Abdulla, said “slightest provocation could result in serious loss of life and damage to property, rallies that are likely to fan communal fires and incite people to resort to violence”.

The petitioner had approached the court on learning that “rallies” were planned in Delhi and Noida purportedly against the communal violence in Haryana. The plea urged the court to direct the police chiefs of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to “take adequate action so as to ensure that the rallies scheduled to take place on August 2 are not allowed”. In case they fail, the petition asked the court to seek an explanation from them on “why they failed to stop” the events.

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