Today: The Supreme Court ruled Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to take “corrective measures” against the communal hate spread in ‘Dharam Sansad’ events and warned that their Chief Secretaries will be held responsible for any “untoward statements” or any unlawful activity hamade during these programs.
In The Court, Bench was led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the Chief Secretaries and the state police were “bound” to stop hate crimes and follow the preventive and punitive measures against hate crimes laid down by the Supreme Court in its judgments.
During the hearing, He said – “We want to see you take corrective measures… These events do not take place overnight. Advance notice is given… Please explain what preventive action you have taken, and did you take action against those responsible after that?”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said a ‘Dharam Sansad was scheduled at Rourkee in Uttarakhand state on Wednesday. He showed the court the allegedly communal statements made by speakers in an earlier event that took place in Himachal Pradesh between April 17 and 19.
Kapil Sibal said – “They are not taking action despite judgments from this court… These events are happening in different places,”
The counsel for Uttarakhand said FIRs had been filed in the case of earlier events of similar nature. He said two communities “who are at loggerheads with each other” were both holding such events. The State had taken action in the past without any communal bias. He said preventive action against untoward statements being made in the Rourkee event were under way.
“We do not know what they will say in their speeches… But we are taking steps… Your Lordships may have faith in us,” the lawyer said.
“There is no problem of trust… The doctrine of trust is applicable 24X7. But we want action and we want to see you take corrective measures and not explain yourselves here in court,” Justice Khanwilkar responded.
The Uttarakhand lawyers said the “community he (Mr. Sibal) is trying to protect is also holding events”.
“This is not the way you (State of Uttarakhand) present yourself here… And if you are so confident about yourself, we will hold your Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Inspector General concerned responsible,” Justice Khanwilkar said sternly.
The court ordered the Himachal Pradesh Home Secretary to file an affidavit by May 7 on the action taken, in terms of the Supreme Court judgments, against those responsible for making hate speeches in the State.
The court further recorded the statements of the Uttarakhand counsel that the State authorites were “more than confident” that no untoward statements would be made in the Rourkee event. The court directed the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary to file a report stating the corrective measures which were taken before the next date of hearing on May 9.
The court referred to how hate speeches continue to hold sway with impunity despite its 2017 judgment in Tehseen Poonawalla case.
‘Product of intolerance’
In this verdict, the court had called for zero tolerance on the part of the Centre and States for hate crimes. It had termed hate crimes as a “product of intolerance, ideological dominance, and prejudice”.
“It is our constitutional duty to take a call to protect lives and human rights. There cannot be a right higher than the right to live with dignity and further to be treated with a humanness that the law provides,”
Among other steps, the Supreme Court had directed State governments to form special task forces to prevent hate crimes and “procure intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news”.
The court had held that it was the “duty of the Central government as well as the State governments to take steps to curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind”
Any failure in the part of the authorities would be viewed as an “act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct”.
The court had reiterated its position against hate crimes in another judgment in the Amish Devgan case in December 2020, holding that hate speech was an attack on dignity in the “matter of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship” and threatened the unity of the nation as a whole.
“The unity and integrity of the nation cannot be overlooked and slighted, as the acts that promote or are likely to promote divisiveness, alienation and schematism do directly and indirectly impinge on the diversity and pluralism, and when they are with the objective and intent to cause public disorder or to demean the dignity of the targeted groups, they have to be dealt with as per law,” the Supreme Court had observed.