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Pleas against all hate speech must be heard

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Mar 6, 2020, 6:15 am IST
Updated : Mar 6, 2020, 6:15 am IST

The intervention was necessitated after a series of events and contradictory orders from the Delhi HC left the riot-affected people high and dry.

Supreme Court of India (ANI photo)
 Supreme Court of India (ANI photo)

It looks like the Supreme Court has decided to stop looking the other way when the executive usurps citizens’ basic democratic rights, including the right to life, and, instead, act. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Sarad A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant has directed the Delhi high court to take up the petitions seeking action against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma for delivering hate speeches fuelling riots in the national capital without delay. The court, which was careful in its language in its order to the Delhi high court, which had adjourned the case to April, was constrained to say that the adjournment for such a long period was not justified.

The Supreme Court, which the other day threw up its hands on acts of hate and said it cannot prevent riots, has now asked the high court to explore the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the dispute. The court also reminded the Centre of the need to be seen to be impartial while tackling inflammable situations. It told the government the situation could aggravate if only one side was acted against. The intervention was necessitated after a series of events and contradictory orders from the Delhi high court left the riot-affected people high and dry.

A bench headed by Justice S. Muralidhar, who has since been transferred, had issued a directive to the Delhi police on February 26 to take a conscious decision on filing FIRs against the BJP leaders for inciting violence in a day. However, another bench headed by Chief justice D.N. Patel chose not to follow up on the order and instead adjourned the case after the solicitor-general said the time was not conducive for acting against hate-speakers. The Supreme Court’s intervention must be seen as a forceful intervention by the judiciary to bring succour to those who have been suffering due to the indifference of the executive and its various arms, including the police.

The Supreme Court, that has now asked the high court to see reason in the plea of the aggrieved, however, disappointed its votaries when it told a petitioner that it would hear him only after the truthfulness of the allegation, levelled by the solicitor-general, that he had talked ill of it, was checked.

True, the majesty of the law must be honoured by one and all. But our system has well-laid procedures to handle those who refuse to do so. Not hearing them is not part of it, as per our constitutional scheme. In fact, it goes against natural justice when a court insists that the petitioner be a squeaky clean person with undiluted respect for it if it were to address his grievances.

A Supreme Court bench had earlier asked anti-CAA protesters to stop violence if they were to be heard. It will be sad if the court is now in the process of evolving a new system where it will pre-qualify people before hearing them.

Tags: supreme court