On Hate Speech, Supreme Court Heat On Himachal, Warning For Uttarakhand

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A religious conclave in Uttarakhand’s Roorkee should not devolve into a typical hate-fest to target Muslims, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, as it also sent pointed questions to neighbouring Himachal Pradesh over a similar event earlier this month.

“If the hate speech is not stopped, the [Uttarakhand] Chief Secretary will be held responsible. We will summon the Chief Secretary to the court,” the judges said, asking the state’s top bureaucrat to place on record that no “untoward statement” will be made at the ‘Dharam Sansad’.

“Follow the Supreme Court’s guideline regarding hate speech. Take all steps necessary to stop hate speech,” they added, ahead of the event scheduled for Wednesday.

In a separate hearing, the Supreme Court also posed searing questions to the Himachal Pradesh government over an event earlier this month that played host to hate speeches against Muslims and calls for Hindus to resort to violence.

“The government has to stop such activity. The state government will have to let us know whether any preventive measures were taken or not,” the court said, asking the BJP administration why it did not act immediately against incendiary speakers.

“The government should file an affidavit by May 7 and let us know what steps were taken to prevent such incidents,” it said, listing the case to be heard again on May 9.

“These events do not happen suddenly. They don’t happen overnight. These are announced in advance. Why didn’t you act right away? There are already guidelines of the Supreme Court,” the judges added.

In the Uttarakhand case, the judges took note of the assurance given by the state government that authorities are confident that no “untoward statement” will be made during the event and all steps as per the decisions of the court will be taken.

However, it pulled up the Uttarakhand government lawyer when he said: “The community that [senior advocate Kapil] Sibal (appearing for the petitioner, who had asked for a ban on the event) is supporting, is also doing some things.”

“What are these arguments? This is not the way to argue in court,” Justice AM Khanwilkar told him.

A three-day Dharam Sansad held in BJP-ruled Uttarakhand’s Haridwar last December had seen attendees give the vilest of hate speeches against Muslims, going as far as calling for their genocide, and brazening it out for days before the police registered any case and made the first arrests.

Earlier this month, one of the main hatemongers from the event – priest Yati Narsinghanand – violated his bail conditions and spoke at the “religious conclave” in Himachal Pradesh’s Una, where participants gave an open call to Hindus to pick up arms and for targeted killings of Muslims.

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