A contempt petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against the Haryana Government for its failure to stop ‘fringe’ elements from disrupting the Friday namaaz (prayers) offered by the Muslim community at designated sites in Gurugram.
Mohammad Adeeb, the petitioner, who is a former independent Member of Rajya Sabha and a permanent resident of Gurugram, has alleged that the state government has failed to duly comply with the ‘preventive measures’ laid down by the Supreme Court in 2018 in the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India & Ors. wherein the court said that mob vigilantism and mob violence have to be prevented by governments by taking strict action. The court had held that the civil society ought to report such incidents to the State machinery and the police instead of taking the law into their own hands.
The Court had issued three-fold guidelines, namely, “preventive measures”, “remedial measures” and “punitive measures”. Those measures inter-alia provided for the appointment of a nodal officer in every district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence. It was directed that it would be the duty of the Union Government as well as the state governments to take steps to curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
In addition, it was directed that the police should register a FIR (first information report) under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content that is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
The contempt plea, filed through Advocate-on-Record Fuzail Ahmed Ayyubi, alleges that at present only certain elements are carrying out a hateful campaign. The inaction of the police in preventing those, despite prior information repeatedly given by the petitioner and others, is in ex facie contempt of the preventive measures passed by the Supreme Court, the petition claims.
The petition asserts that the open locations used for the limited purpose of performing namaaz are not in any manner of encroachment, but rather are conducted only after approval from the relevant government authorities, including the municipal and the police functionaries. It says as many as 37 locations had been designated for this purpose by the police and district authorities themselves. However, in the last few months, there has been a constant rise in incidents revolving around the Friday prayers at the behest of certain identifiable hooligans, with no local support. They portray themselves falsely in the name of religion, and seek to create an atmosphere of hatred and prejudice against one community across the city, the petition alleges.
“This nefarious design is being given effect to by propagation and dissemination of hateful content through social media platforms spreading false narratives, terming the performance of Friday Naamaz, which is being done in the open due to compulsion and the same is permitted by the appropriate authorities in the circumstances as being illegal and in a manner of some sort of encroachment”, the plea reads.
The plea contends that since April 2021, the local residents and the persons coming to perform Friday prayers have been facing such malicious and hateful campaigns at the sites of such prayers. On April 9, the local residents of the area had given a complaint to the Station House Officer of the Sushant Lok police station in Gurugram city against one Dinesh Bharti, who claims to be a member of a self-styled vigilante group named “Bharat Mata Vahini” and is one of the key perpetrators of repeated incidents in Gurugram. “The complaint had clearly stated that the said person, along with few others, is constantly creating hurdles in performance of naamaz at the designated locations while no action is being taken against him”, the petition alleges. The plea also draws the attention of the Court to the multiple complaints filed against the vigilante group but to no avail.
It also mentions a recent incident of October 23, in which Imam Abdul Hasib, who used to perform the Friday prayers at Sector 44, Gurugram, also gave a complaint at the city’s Sadar police station, clearly stating that certain unruly elements stalked him and misbehaved with him violently, asking him to stop performing the Friday prayers at Sector 44.
The petition alleges that the local police, instead of taking any action against such communally divisive incidents, chose to change the pre-approved locations of Friday prayers.
The petitioner argues that the continuous inaction, the apathy of the State machinery, and failure of the local law enforcement agencies and administration to prevent such incidents or to find a solution to the crises before it spirals into a monstrosity, is precisely what had been indicated by the Supreme Court in 2018 when it had issued preventive measures.