Hate speech: Supreme Court directs Delhi police to file better affidavit

New Delhi, Apr 22 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Friday expressed its displeasure over a Delhi Police affidavit which had said that “no hate speech was made” during an event held here last year and directed it to file a “better affidavit.”

Delhi Police had told the court that “no specific words against any community were uttered” at an event organised here by the ‘Hindu Yuva Vahini’ on December 19 last year.

“The affidavit has been filed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police. We hope he has understood the nuances. Has he merely reproduced the inquiry report or applied mind? Is it your stand as well or the reproduction of inquiry report of sub-inspector level officer?”, a bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Abhay S. Oka asked.

The bench questioned whether such a stand be taken on an affidavit before the court and wanted to know who verified the affidavit, and if Delhi Police was accepting it as a correct finding.

Additional Solicitor General [ASG] K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the Delhi Police, said they will have a “re-look” of the matter and file a fresh affidavit.

“The ASG seeks time to get instructions from authorities to file a better affidavit…Two weeks time prayed for. List this matter on May 9. Better affidavit be filed on or before May 4,” the bench said.

The =court was hearing a petition filed by journalist Qurban Ali, and former Patna High Court judge and senior advocate Anjana Prakash, who has also sought a direction for an “independent, credible and impartial investigation” by a Special Investigation Team into incidents of hate speeches against the Muslim community.

As the hearing commenced, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, drew the attention of the bench towards extracts of the speech and the enquiry report of the Sub Inspector, Police Station Okhla Industrial Area.

The counter affidavit of the Delhi Police says an inquiry has been conducted, and that the persons had gathered to “save ethics of their community”.

“In the speech in question, they say, ‘We are ready to kill’! And the Delhi Police say it is to ‘save the ethics of the community? Your Lordships may fix it for hearing and decide what constitutionally ethics are”, Sibal said.

The bench then asked the law officer if any senior officer had verified the affidavit.

“Some superior officer has seen it? Who has verified it? Has there been an application of mind as to if this stand can be taken on affidavit before the court? This affidavit is filed by the deputy commissioner of police? He accepts this position?
Is this his understanding or only a reproduction of IO [Investigating Officer]’s report? We want to understand from you the affidavit filed before this court by the deputy commissioner of police, a senior officer”, the bench said.

The apex court asked the ASG if Delhi Police was accepting it as a correct finding.

“This is the reproduction of the inquiry report prepared by a sub-inspector level officer or is it your stand? If it is so, then we have to ask the Commissioner of Police to look into it if this is your stand also,” the bench said.

Nataraj said they will have a re-look of the matter and file a fresh affidavit.

In a counter-affidavit filed at the Supreme court, the Delhi Police had said the petitioners had not approached them for taking any action in connection with the alleged incident and have directly moved the Supreme Court, and such a practice must be deprecated.

In its affidavit, the Delhi Police had said that on the same subject matter, some complaints were lodged alleging that hate speech was made at an event organised here by the ‘Hindu Yuva Vahini’ on December 19 last year, and all those complaints were consolidated and an inquiry was initiated.

It had said after a deep enquiry was conducted and the contents of the video were evaluated, the police did not find any substance in the video as per the allegation levelled by the complainants.

It had said the police, after carrying out a preliminary inquiry on the complaints, and after examining the video link and attached video in respect of the alleged hate speech delivered at Delhi, found that no such words as mentioned by the complainant in his complaint have been used.

It had said “no hate” was expressed in the event at Delhi against any group, community, ethnicity, religion or faith, and the speech was about empowering one’s religion to prepare itself to face the evils which could endanger its existence, which is not even remotely connected to a call for genocide of any particular religion.

The court had earlier asked the Uttarakhand government to file a status report after it said that four first information reports [FIRs] have been registered in connection with the alleged hate speeches made in December last year during an event in Haridwar.

It had on January 12 issued notice on the plea which sought direction to ensure investigation and action against those who allegedly made hate speeches during two events held in Haridwar and the national capital.

The plea, which specifically referred to the “hate speeches” delivered between the “17th and 19th of December 2021 at Haridwar and Delhi”, has also sought compliance with the court’s guidelines to deal with such speeches.

One event was organised in Haridwar by Yati Narsinghanand and the other in Delhi by ‘Hindu Yuva Vahini’ allegedly “calling for the genocide of members” of a community, it has said.

The Uttarakhand Police filed an FIR on December 23 last against some persons including Sant Dharamdas Maharaj, Sadhvi Annapoorna alias Pooja Shakun Pandey, Yati Narsinghanand, and Sagar Sindhu Maharaj.