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Modi, Singhal in the dock for hate rallies

New Delhi, Feb. 24: The Election Commission, Maharashtra police, even L.K. Advani may have kept their hands off the duo but the Supreme Court today slapped notices on the BJP’s Narendra Modi and the VHP’s Ashok Singhal for allegedly making inflammatory speeches threatening the unity of the country.

The court also issued notices to Maharashtra police for allegedly refusing to register a complaint against the Gujarat chief minister and the VHP international general secretary for making statements that could have incited communal flare-ups.

Another notice was issued to the Union government as an application to the home ministry to sanction the launch of prosecution against the duo did not receive any response.

Justices R.C. Lahoti and Brijesh Kumar issued the notices on a petition by ad guru Alyque Padamsee and journalists B.G. Verghese and Kuldip Nayar. The petition said Azad Maidan police in Mumbai had refused to register a complaint. Notices were issued to the Gujarat government also.

According to the petitioners, last year’s Godhra train burning had set off large-scale communal riots in Gujarat that resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives. But Modi, as caretaker chief minister, had made statements at a public meeting in Becharaji on September 9 “which need to be viewed as a grave threat to the peace, unity and integrity of India”.

Singhal had addressed a public meeting at Shivala Bhaiyan temple in Amritsar last year “wherein instead of condemning the said carnage, he praised the incidents and described it as a successful experiment”, the petition alleged.

Petitioners’ counsel Kapil Sibal said complaints against the duo were made at Azad Maidan police station in Mumbai under Sections 153-A, 153-B and 505 of the IPC but they were not registered by the police. The “petitioners want to know why their complaint was not even registered by police”, Sibal said.

The petition contended that the speeches Modi made during his Gaurav Yatra ahead of the Gujarat elections were “biased against the Muslims and amounted to a grave threat to the peace, unity and integrity of India”.

“These statements propagate the hatred of one community towards another. His call to ‘teach a lesson’ to Muslims would militate against any hope of communal harmony, given the recent carnage that enveloped the state,” it said.

The petition added that Modi knew the lives of thousands of Muslims depended on the relief camps, “yet he made statements to the effect that the relief camps were child manufacturing factories and hence should be closed”.

Although the statements made by Modi and Singhal were highlighted by the media and became talking points, the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments and the Centre did nothing to restrain them. Attributing the inaction to “political reasons”, the petitioners said that action should be taken against both Modi and Singhal.

The noticees have been asked to reply in eight weeks.

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