Lens on Yogi hate speech

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked a judicial magistrate to examine afresh whether a decade-old "hate speech" complaint against Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath could be taken up, leaving open two possible interpretations as it disposed of a plea for intervention.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 12.09.18
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Yogi Adityanath. File Picture

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked a judicial magistrate to examine afresh whether a decade-old "hate speech" complaint against Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath could be taken up, leaving open two possible interpretations as it disposed of a plea for intervention.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said the Gorakhpur magistrate must keep in mind a 2015 ruling by the top court "that an opinion is to be formed only after due application of mind".

The order is being interpreted in two ways. One view is that the BJP leader may have to face trial if the magistrate finds substance in the January 2007 complaint.

Others say it is a breather for Adityanath as the top court had declined to interfere with the order Allahabad High Court had passed, quashing the complaint filed by the petitioner, Rashid Khan.

The petitioner had claimed that on the morning of January 27, 2007, members from the vigilante group Hindu Yuva Vahini and other Hindutva outfits had responded to a call from the saffron-robed politician and gathered at Gorakhpur, where they raised provocative slogans.

Adityanath, mahant of Gorakhpur temple, had been ordered by the district magistrate not to visit the place. But he violated the order.

Khan claimed that on Adityanath's command, the mob targeted a mausoleum and looted cash and silver ornaments.

The magistrate had issued summons after taking cognisance of the complaints filed under several penal code sections, 153A (promoting enmity between groups), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 438 (mischief through explosive material). Convictions under the last section could mean jail for life.

Adityanath, then an MP, had moved the sessions court, which quashed the judicial magistrate's order on January 28, 2017.

On February 1 this year, Allahabad High Court refused to interfere with the sessions court's order and asked the magistrate to examine the complaint afresh, prompting Khan to move the top court.

In its order on Tuesday, the three-judge bench said the magistrate must keep in mind the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in the "Sunil Bharti Mittal vs CBI" case.

The top court had then said "that an opinion (by a magistrate for taking cognisance) is to be formed only after due application of mind that there is sufficient basis for proceeding against the said accused".

The court had also said the "formation of such an opinion is to be stated in the order itself".