The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Uttarakhand government to ensure that hate speeches are not delivered at a so-called Dharam Sansad scheduled in Roorkee on Wednesday and reminded the state it was “bound” by the Constitution to ensure peace and was not “doing any favour” by complying with relevant judicial directives.
“We are putting on record now. You know what are the preventive measures. You will have to take it and if it (hate speeches/violence) happens, we will ask the chief secretary to be present here before the court…. We are directing you to take all the necessary steps,” Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, heading a three-judge bench, told Uttarakhand deputy advocate-general Jatinder Kumar Sethi.
“You are bound to take action. You are not doing any favour to us by following the directions,” the court added while hearing appeals against alleged hate speeches at religious events in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Both states are ruled by the BJP.
The bench, which also had Justices A.S. Oka and C.T. Ravi Kumar, made the oral observations after Sethi assured the court that the Uttarakhand government was adhering to the directives issued in 2018 in three cases — Shakti Vahini Vs Union of India & Ors, Tehseen S. Poonawalla Vs Union of India & Ors, and Kodungallur Film Society and Anr. Vs Union of India & Ors. These judgments dealt with preventive and punitive measures related to hate speeches.
The stern warning on Tuesday followed submissions by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for PIL petitioner Qurban Ali, that guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the three judgments were not being complied with, resulting in hate speeches being delivered.
Sibal informed the court that on Wednesday another “Dharam Sansad” was scheduled to be held at Roorkee where the petitioner apprehended hate speeches similar to those allegedly delivered in Haridwar last December.
“You (Uttarakhand government) have to follow the guidelines, and if they are not being followed, you will have to answer,” Justice Khanwilkar said.
When Sethi said the state was taking all preventive measures, Justice Khanwilkar said: “Not only that, you have to stop all such activities (hate speeches) and untoward incidents from happening. These events don’t occur suddenly and are announced in advance. Your police need to ensure that nothing happens.”
Sethi informed the court that the Uttarakhand government had registered four FIRs relating to one community and one FIR in the case of another community in connection with the hate speeches delivered in December. He did not name the communities.
“Things are happening despite our judgment,” the court replied.
On preventive measures, Sethi said the administration was facing difficulties as “we don’t know what would be the text” of the speeches that would be delivered at the religious gatherings. Justice Khanwilkar remarked: “The speaker will be the same. You take action. Don’t make us say what we don’t want to speak.”
Sethi replied: “We are taking steps and instructions. Let them (petitioners) have faith in us.”
The bench said: “You talk to the secretary (home) and the IG of that area (Roorkee). The problem is not about trust, but what we see is something else on the ground. Despite the 2018 judgment things are happening.”
Sethi said: “My friend (Sibal) is trying to colour a particular community. We are taking steps and we will take steps that nothing happens.”
In December in Haridwar, calls had allegedly been issued at a Dharam Sansad for genocide against Muslims. At a similar event in Delhi, participants had been seen in videos chanting: “We shall fight; we shall die for and, if necessary, we shall kill.”
Last week the Supreme Court directed Delhi police to file a “better affidavit” after the force stated that no hate speeches had been delivered in the capital and the speakers were only trying to “save the ethics of the community”.
Earlier during Tuesday’s hearing, the court directed the Himachal Pradesh home secretary to file an affidavit stating the measures taken to prevent any untoward incident at a recent Dharam Sansad in Shimla.