Mumbai High Court disposes of plea to charge Maharashtra BJP MLAs with hate speech

Police justified not invoking Section 295A against BJP MLAs Nitesh Rane, T. Raja Singh and Geeta Jain with the public prosecutor saying “Rohingyas and Bangladeshis are not from India”

Updated - July 10, 2024 01:59 am IST

Published - July 09, 2024 08:01 pm IST - MUMBAI

A division bench of the Bombay HC was hearing petitions seeking action against the BJP MLAs for allegedly giving communally charged hate speeches against Muslims in Ghatkopar, Malwani, Mankhurd and Kashimira in January. File

A division bench of the Bombay HC was hearing petitions seeking action against the BJP MLAs for allegedly giving communally charged hate speeches against Muslims in Ghatkopar, Malwani, Mankhurd and Kashimira in January. File | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

The Mumbai Police justified its decision to not invoke Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against BJP leaders Nitesh Rane, T. Raja Singh and Geeta Jain, by telling the Bombay High Court that words such as ‘Rohingyas’, ‘Bangladeshis’ and ‘jihadis’ do not target any community or religion in India. Section 295A is slapped to charge a person for maliciously insulting the religion or religious beliefs of any class.

A division bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere and Justice Shyam Chandak was hearing petitions seeking action against the BJP MLAs for allegedly giving communally charged hate speeches against Muslims in Ghatkopar, Malwani, Mankhurd and Kashimira in January.

The petitioners cited speeches made by Mr. Rane in Ghatkopar, Malwani and Kashimira where he addressed the Muslim community living in Mumbai and in India as ‘Rohingyas’, ‘Bangladeshis’ and ‘jihadis’. Mr. Raja and Ms. Jain delivered speeches along similar lines in Kashimira, they said. The petitioners sought an FIR against the MLAs and urged the bench to invoke Section 295A against them saying that the speeches were made after communal violence in the areas.

Public prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar argued that no case was made out to invoke Section 295A for using the words ‘Bangladeshis’, ‘jihadis’ and ‘Rohingyas’.

“The entire statement is against Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. The provision in question is for outraging sentiments of Indians and admittedly the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis are not from India, and they have entered our jurisdiction illegally and that is an admitted position. Section 295A is only invoked in the FIR lodged at Mankhurd Police Station, where specific allegations are made against the Muslim community,” Mr. Venegaonkar said.

Mr. Venegaonkar said in the FIR at Ghatkopar, sections 153A, 153B, 504 and 506 of the IPC have been invoked against Mr. Rane and Subhash Ahir. At Malwani, the police has lodged an FIR against Mr. Rane and others under sections 153A, 504, 506 and 188. The FIR at Kashimira Police station is lodged under sections 143, 149 and a chargesheet has also been filed. He said senior police officers of the respective areas had reviewed videos and transcripts of the speeches and had concluded that those do not fall under the purview of Section 295A.

After hearing the arguments, the bench disposed of the petition, noting that most of the prayers sought by the petitioners had already been fulfilled. “A conscious statement is made by the highest officers of the police departments in Mumbai and Mira-Bhayander, not to invoke Section 295A. We accept the statement. Leave is granted to the petitioners to seek for invocation of Section 295A at the appropriate stage (framing of charges) before an appropriate forum.”

The court noted that a chargesheet was filed in one of the cases registered with the Kashimira police in Mira-Bhayandar, and chargesheets in the other three cases would be filed within eight weeks. “The requisite sanction to prosecute the accused under sections 153A and 153B (promoting enmity and disharmony among religious groups) would also procured by the police within eight weeks,” it said.

Senior counsel Gayatri Singh pleaded with the bench to keep the petition pending considering the approaching Assembly elections in Maharashtra. “Please keep this pending. And, if Section 295 is not added now they will file chargesheets and would later say that now they cannot add the said provision,” she said. To this, Justice Dere said, “That will not happen. We know what the law is. Liberty is granted to you to seek to invoke the said section. As far as forthcoming elections are concerned, that can be a separate cause of action.”

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