Will file fresh affidavit on speeches at Delhi event, say police

Delhi Police agree to relook after Bench expresses incredulity at tone of earlier affidavit

April 22, 2022 02:53 pm | Updated 06:09 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

The Delhi Police beat a tactful retreat in the Supreme Court on April 22 by promising a “better” affidavit than the one filed that said speeches made at a Hindu Yuva Vahini event did not amount to hate and the gathering was made of people motivated to “save the ethics of their community.”

Watch | What is ‘hate speech’?

A Bench led by Justice A. M. Khanwilkar expressed incredulity at the tone of the affidavit, asking the police whether it had really applied its mind while figuring out what it wanted to say in an affidavit filed under oath in the Supreme Court.

“The affidavit has been filed by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) ... Have you understood the nuances of the case?” the court asked.

The police affidavit came in response to a petition filed by retired High Court judge Anjana Prakash and journalist Qurban Ali, who described speeches made at events held both in Delhi and Haridwar as an “open call for genocide of Muslims in order to achieve ethnic cleansing.”

One of the speeches under the spotlight is that of Sudarshan News TV Editor Suresh Chavhanke at the Delhi event in December last year.

The Delhi Police affidavit had dismissed notions of hate being spewed out. Instead, the police reasoned that the speeches had been about “empowering one’s religion to prepare itself to face the evils that could endanger its existence, which is not even remotely connected to a call for genocide of any particular religion.”

“None of the words spoken during the events in any manner whatsoever overtly and explicitly described Indian Muslims as usurpers of territory, and as predators of land, livelihoods and of Hindu women, and nothing was said or done which could create an environment of paranoia amongst any religion, caste or creed,” the affidavit, filed through Esha Pandey, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South-east Delhi, had submitted.

In fact, the police advised the petitioners to practise tolerance to the views of others. It said the fundamental freedom of speech could not be suppressed unless it threatened “community interests.”

On Friday, senior advocate Kapil Sibal asked in court whether the Delhi Police was of the opinion that a call to “kill” was reasonable as long as it saved the “ethics of the community.”

“If that is the case, Your Lordships may have to decide the constitutionality of these ‘ethics’...” Mr. Sibal submitted.

Justice Khanwilkar asked Additional Solicitor-General K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the police, if any senior officers had verified the contents of the affidavit before it was filed in court. Do you want to take another look?” Justice Khanwilkar asked the law officer.

Mr. Nataraj agreed to the suggestion. “We will have a relook and file a fresh affidavit,” he replied.

The petitioners in the case had alleged that the events in Haridwar and Delhi in December 2021 had witnessed hate speeches delivered with “the apparent objective of declaring war against a significant section of the Indian citizenry.” They had sought an independent, credible and impartial investigation.

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