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List action taken to halt hate talks: SC to Uttarakhand, Himachal

Deccan Chronicle.| Pramod Kumar

Published on: April 26, 2022 | Updated on: April 27, 2022

The SC bench took note of the assurance given by the state govt that authorities are confident that no untoward statement will be made

Supreme Court of India (PTI)

Supreme Court of India (PTI)

New Delhi: 

Expressing concern over the incidents of hate speeches targeting a particular community across the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh governments. Noting that the incidents of hate speeches keep occurring in the country despite its guidelines on preventive measures to be taken by the government authorities, the apex court said "don't want your assurance," place on record what steps you have taken to prevent it.   

A three-judge bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice C.T. Ravikumar, took note of the assurance given by the Uttarakhand government that authorities are confident that no untoward statement will be made during the event and that all steps as per decisions of this court will be taken.

The bench said that if a person is invited to address a religious gathering and is known to have made hate speeches in the past, then authorities are obliged to take preventive steps to nail the mischief.

"If the speaker who is invited to talk at such events has previously made such speeches, then the state is obligated to take preventive steps," the bench said.

Taking exception to the stand taken by the Uttarakhand government wherein it argued that "If they say Dharam Sansad will be held, we cannot anticipate what will be said," the bench retorted, "But if it is by the same person, then you have to prevent it. Don’t make us say things."

Conveying the seriousness with which Uttarakhand government has to deal with hate speech, the court directed the state government to file an affidavit giving details of the preventive steps taken by it in view of the Dharam Sansad scheduled to begin Wednesday (April 27) in Roorkee.

The Uttarakhand government, by way of assurance to the court, informed that it will do its best to prevent any hate speech, the bench said, "It is your duty. You are not doing us a favour."

The bench also cautioned the Uttarakhand government that the chief secretary will be asked to appear before it if the state failed to take preventive steps. "We will hold the chief secretary, the home secretary, and the IG concerned responsible if any untoward situation happens despite your assurance! We are putting it on record," the bench said.

The top court’s observation came in the course of the hearing of a public interest petition by former judge of the Patna High Court and a senior lawyer Anjana Prakash and a journalist Qurban Ali seeking a probe into the alleged hate speech targeting the Muslim community delivered at the Haridwar Dharam Sansad on December 17 and 18, and on December 19, last year by Yati Narsinghanand at the event organised by the Hindu Yuva Vahini. The petitioners had subsequently filed applications pointing out similar gatherings scheduled in other cities, including Uttarakhand.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal appearing for the PIL petitioners in the matter relating to the Dharam Sansad at Himachal Pradesh submitted that Dharam Sansads are being held at every other place from time to time. "This was held in Una, Himachal Pradesh. This is very shocking. I will not even read it publicly," he said.

The bench told the Himachal Pradesh government that it has to follow the guidelines already in place. "Are you following them or not, you have to answer. If not, then you have to take corrective measures," the bench said.

The counsel for Himachal Pradesh told the bench that it has taken preventive measures and also undertaken investigation. Himachal Pradesh counsel said the state had issued a notice under Section 64 of the Police Act to ensure there is no such issue.

"You have to stop activity, and not just investigate. File an affidavit disclosing what steps you have taken to prevent it and thereafter," the bench said.

On behalf of the petitioners, Mr Sibal told the court that the authorities in Uttarakhand are not doing anything to stop such hate speeches that call for violence.

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