Hate crimes against minorities: ‘Where have we reached in the name of religion?’, asks Supreme Court

The bench, comprising Justices K.M.Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, expressed its anguish over the increasing instances of hate speeches, and lack of timely action by the police against the perpetrators.

THE Supreme Court has directed the Delhi Police Commissioner, Director General Police of Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand to take suo motu against those indulging in hate speeches. The Court also warned the erring officers of the contempt of court proceedings against them if they fail to act against the offenders.

“We feel that this Court is charged with the duty to protect the fundamental rights and also preserve the constitutional values and the secular democratic character of the nation and in particular, the rule of law”, the bench comprising Justice K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy observed.

The bench added that such action would be taken irrespective of the religion that the maker of the speech or the person who committed such act belonged to, so that the secular character of Bharat as envisaged by the Preamble, is preserved and protected.

Emphasising the importance of fraternity, the bench said There cannot be fraternity unless members of community drawn from different religions or castes of the country are able to live in harmony. The petitioners point out that there are appropriate provisions such as Sections 153A, 153B, 505, and 295A of the Indian Penal Code. He voices his concern that no action has been taken even after this Court has been approached in the matter and the transgressions have only increased.”

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The bench has also directed the Delhi Police Commissioner and DGPs of UP and Uttrakhand to file a report as to what action has been taken in regard to such acts as alleged by the petitioner before the court.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Shaheen Abdulla flagging the “growing menace of targeting and terrorising of the Muslim community in India”.

The petition highlights the “open participation by members of the ruling political party in delivering hate speeches” that target Muslims, by citing a few examples.

  • On October 13,  BJP’s MLA from Khatauli, Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Vikram Saini, while addressing the media, called for the boycott of Muslim Henna artists, alleging that they, by applying Henna to Hindu  women, wanted to commit love jihad.
  • BJP MP from west Delhi, Parvesh Verma, called for the “total boycott” of people from a particular community during the ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ event organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other right-wing organisations in Delhi on October 9.
  • At the same event held in Delhi on October 9, the BJP MLA Nand Kishore Gujjar from Loni, Uttar Pradesh used foul language for Mohammad Akhlaq — who was lynched to death on rumours of consuming and storing beef in 2015 at Bisada village, near Dadri, in Gautam Buddh Nagar.
  • With several BJP leaders in attendance, communal and degrading slogans were raised at a rally at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on August 8 last year.

The petition also flags hate speeches made by news and media platforms that conduct programmes to openly demonize the Muslim community.

“This is the 21st century. Where have we reached in the name of religion?” Justice Joseph asked.

The petition has sought direction from the court to authorities to initiate appropriate action under the relevant penal statutes including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, against the speakers as well as the organisations engaging in activities that lead to the spread of communal disharmony, which is a threat to the unity and integrity of India. Also, it seeks direction to ensure that an independent, credible and impartial investigation is conducted into the incidents of hate speeches and hate crimes against the Muslim community.