The Supreme Court on Friday directed that an upcoming event in Mumbai, organised by a body known as the Sakal Hindu Samaj, should only be allowed subject to that no hate speech is made at the event.
A bench, headed by Justice K.M. Joseph, asked the Maharashtra government to record the event scheduled on February 5, and stressed that the government has to ensure that hate speeches are not made.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Maharashtra government, vociferously opposed the plea and informed the court that permission to hold the event has not been granted yet. He contended that if someone is prevented from voicing their view, then there will be prevention of Article 19(1)(a) and the court has to be very careful in a pre-censorship order.
The bench, also comprising Justice J.B. Pardiwala, observed that the court may be reluctant to grant a relief that the event is not held but it should be ensured that during this rally, no rash statements are made. Mehta queried how a petitioner based in Kerala would know of speeches being made in Maharashtra and could the court say what has to be spoken has to be first vetted.
Citing the Dharam Sansad event in Uttarakhand , the bench said the event happened there and then the state government took action and “If there is a replica of what happened then we cannot allow this..” Mehta assured that action will be taken against hate speech.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioner, submitted that the police should invoke Code of Criminal Procedure’s Section 151, which gives power to the police to arrest persons to prevent cognisable offences. Mehta opposed this demand of the petitioner and argued that they not only want pre-censorship but also pre-arrest, adding that this forum is being misused.
After hearing arguments, the bench said it is recording Mehta’s submission that if permission is applied for Sakal Hindu Samaj for holding the meeting on February 5, and if permission is granted, it will be subject to condition that nobody will make any hate speech in defiance of law and in violation of public order.
The plea filed by Shaheen Abdullah said: “The mass participation at these rallies being organised not just with the consent and knowledge of government authorities but with their active participation, pose a serious threat to the very foundation of our nation as a secular nation. The hatred being taught and the radicalisation of youth being carried out with such impunity will inevitably lead to communal disharmony and violence of an unfathomable scale across the country.”
The plea said rallies have been organised by a body known as the Sakal Hindu Samaj, an umbrella body of Hindu right-wing organisations, under the banner of “Hindu Jan Aakrosh Sabha”. The last such rally took place on January 29 in Mumbai and more than 10,000 people attended a rally organised by Hindu far-right groups seeking boycott of goods from shops owned by Muslims and a law against “love jihad” and “religious conversions”.
“That the aforementioned Sakal Hindu Samaj will be organising yet another rally, of a similar nature, on February 5, 2023 in Mumbai. At least 15,000 people are expected to participate in the said rally. The very nature of all the previous rallies clearly indicate the kind of hate speeches that will in all likelihood be delivered at the same,” added the plea.
In October last year, the apex court had directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to come down hard on hate speeches, promptly registering criminal cases against the culprits without waiting for a complaint to be filed.