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Supreme Court directs 3 state governments to take suo motu action against hate speeches without waiting for complaint, irrespective of religion

While the petitioner had sought action under UAPA only on anti-Muslim hate crimes, the apex court said that suo motu action must be taken against any hate speech crime irrespective of the religion of the speaker

On Friday, 21st October 2022, the Supreme Court instructed the law enforcement agencies of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh governments to take suo moto action in cases regarding hate speech without waiting for complaints to be filed. The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by one Shaheen Abdullah seeking urgent intervention in a set of matters regarding so-called anti-Muslim hate crimes. However, while the petitioner had sought action only on anti-Muslim hate crimes, the apex court said that suo motu action must be taken against any hate speech crime irrespective of the religion of the speaker.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy also directed the Governments of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh to file a report before the Court regarding the actions taken on the hate speech crimes that took place in these states.

The court said that cases should be suo motu registered against hate speeches and the offenders should be proceeded against in accordance with the law. The bench also warned that failure to do so will be regarded as contempt of court. Noting that the petitioner has alleged that authorities are not taking action against hate speech, the court said it is a serious matter. The bench said that the petition relates to the “prevailing climate of hate in the country” and the total inaction of the authorities.

In view of this, the bench directed that whenever there are incidents of hate speech in NCT of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttara Pradesh, the state govts will file cases under appropriate sections like 153A, 153B, 295A and 506 of IPC, by taking suo motu action and without waiting for any complaint to be filed. The bench further ordered the three state governments to issue directions to their respective police forces. The bench made it clear that “such action be taken irrespective of the religion of the maker of the speech, so that the secular character of Bharat as envisaged by the Preamble is preserved.”

The petition mentioned the alleged hate speeches as a “growing menace of targeting and terrorizing the Muslim community in India”, and sought prosecution under UAPA for such alleged hate crimes against Muslims. A bench of Justice KM Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy heard the petition. Advocate Kapil Sibal represented the petitioner.

On the previous hearing dated 20th October 2022, the petitioner asked the Union of India and the State Governments for specifications on how they should launch an objective, independent, and credible inquiry into incidences of hate crimes and hate speeches. The petitioner also sought direction in order to take proper legal action against the speakers and organizations committing such alleged hate crimes against Muslims under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other criminal laws.

On 21st October 2022, Advocate Kapil Sibal argued that these cases constitute cognizable offenses and many complaints have been filed, but no action is taken in any of them. After this, Kapil Sibal read out a statement by BJP MP Parvesh Verma. Sibal rather misquoted Verma. Sibal said, “No need to buy vegetables and fruits from Muslims, there should be a complete boycott.” In fact, Parvesh Verma in his original statement had said, “No need to buy vegetables and fruits from these people, there should be a complete boycott.” Nowhere in his statement, Parvesh Verma did use the word Muslim, nor did he mention any specific community. But Kapil Sibal blatantly lied in front of the Supreme Court.

Kapil Sibal further said, “The administration does nothing, we keep coming to Court, and the police officers are not taking any action. Silence certainly is not the answer. Not on our part, not on the court’s part.” To this, the bench asked, “The UAPA prayer is not possible. Are Muslims also making hate speeches?” Advocate Kapil Sibal replied, “Does that make it fair? If they do, they should be treated equally.”

Justice Roy said, “Some of these statements are very disturbing, for a country that is a democracy and believes in equality of all religions. Whichever community gives these kinds of statements, should be dealt with. Eventually, what Chapter III says, has to be followed.”

In its order, the court said, “It is the case of the petitioner, that despite suitable provisions available in penal law, there is inaction. The petitioner voices his concern that no action has been taken despite this court’s directions. The matter needs examination. Issue notice. Respondents 2 to 4 (state and union governments and law enforcement agencies) to ensure that when any such acts take place, without any complaint being filed, suo moto action will be taken by them. Any delay will be taken to be contempt of court. Respondent No 2 to 4 to also file action taken report against such offenses which have occurred within their jurisdiction.”

Hate crimes, threat cal, and boycott calls from Muslims

It is notable that Shaheen Abdullah has filed the case against the inaction on the complaints over the so-called anti-Muslim hate speeches and hate crimes, but has conveniently forgotten the anti-Hindu hate crimes by the leaders of the Muslim community. On Sunday (May 29), a local Hyderabad-based party AIMIM (Inquilab) announced a reward of ₹1 crore rupees to any Muslim who would kill BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for allegedly committing blasphemy. The threats were made by the party leader Qavi Abbasi.

In a video that went viral Abbasi can be seen making derogatory remarks about Hinduism and labeling the BJP leader as a ‘white-collar prostitute.’ At the very onset, he said, “As you know, the punishment for insulting Prophet Muhammad is death in Islam. Whoever commits blasphemy, we announce a bounty of ₹1 crore for killing him/her. We had earlier made a similar announcement for Waseem Rizvi.”

Qavi Abbasi is also known for boycott calls against Hindus. He asked the Muslims to do Ramzan shopping at business establishments owned by their community members only.

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