Delhi High Court Women Lawyers Forum writes to Supreme Court to curb hate-filled videos on Nuh violence

The letter has requested the Chief Justice of India to issue directions addressing the government of Haryana to take effective and speedy actions to curb circulation of videos that are spreading hatred and instigating violence.

IF [left] unchecked, it might be impossible to control [the] growing trend of hate and violence,” the Delhi High Court Women Lawyers Forum has written in a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India.

The letter is written in context of recent communal violence in Nuh, Haryana.

In the “letter petition” dated August 17, with 101 signatories residing in Delhi and Gurugram, the forum has raised concerns about videos circulating on social media platforms containing hate speech and incitements to targeted violence.

Directions sought

The petition seeks the court’s direction to the government of Haryana to “track and ban” videos that threaten to cause harm to any community or place of worship; or urge economic boycott of a particular community.

It has also sought “urgent and expeditious” directions from the Supreme Court to the government of Haryana to take immediate action against persons found responsible for committing acts of hate speech.

The court should urge the state government to “promote an environment of dignity and liberty for citizens of all religions” in the state, the letter says.

Announcement of “awards for acts of communal harmony” has also been sought.

Previous directions highlighted

The petition notes that the Punjab And Haryana High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of demolition of homes in districts Nuh and Gurugram in the aftermath of the communal violence that started in the state on July 31.

On August 7, a division Bench of the high court comprising Justices G.S. Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeewan had enquired whether properties of a “particular community” were being targeted “under the guise of a law and order problem” and an “exercise of ethnic cleansing” was being conducted.

The Bench had directed the Haryana government to furnish an affidavit on the number of buildings that had been demolished in the previous two weeks, both in Nuh and Gurugram, and whether any notice was issued before the demolitions.

Granting interim relief against indiscriminate use of the ‘bulldozer’, the Bench had directed the state government to cease the act of demolition “if the procedure as per law is not followed”.

The swift and sensitive approach of the court has gone a long way in building confidence of citizens in the rule of law,” the letter reads.

While hearing a petition filed by Shaheen Abdullah, a student at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, the Supreme Court on August 11, 2022 had observed that there has to be harmony and comity between communities.”

Significantly, the Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna had lamented the fact that people have to move courts every time an instance of hate speech takes place.

The Bench had then mooted the idea of a committee under the Director General of Police to vet such complaints, which the letter notes.

The letter also cites the Supreme Court’s judgment in Tehseen Poonawalla versus Union of India (2018) delivered in the context of increased instances of mob vigilantism and violence.

One of the directions of the court highlighted by the letter states that “there should be seriousness in patrolling so that the anti-social elements involved in such crimes are discouraged and remain within the boundaries of law thus fearing to even think of taking the law into their own hands.”

The letter also highlights another direction mandating nodal officers for the purpose of preventing mob violence to “identify the existence of the tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching in the district and take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through different social media platforms or any other means for inciting such tendencies.

The nodal officer shall also make efforts to eradicate a hostile environment against any community or caste which is targeted in such incidents.

In Orders given by the Supreme Court in October 2022 and subsequently in April 2023, it was directed that first information reports (FIRs) should be registered suo motu by the police even if no complainant is forthcoming.

Despite these directions and guidelines, the letter says, the incidents of hate speech in Haryana “reveal a comprehensive failure on the part of the state administration and police to implement preventive measures, as well as, to have appropriate responsive measures.

Unchecked hate speech “not only carry the risk of inciting violence but also, foster and spread an environment and culture of communal fear, harassment and discrimination,” the letter asserts.

The Leaflet