The Supreme Court today rebuked Delhi Police for its affidavit that stated that Sudarshan News Editor Suresh Chavhanke’s speech at the Hindu Yuva Vahini meet held in Delhi in December 2021 did not amount to “hate speech” against any particular community. “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 his mind? Is it your stand as well or the reproduction of (the) inquiry report of (a) sub-inspector level officer?” a Supreme Court bench remarked.
The highest court asked the ASG to seek instructions and file a “better affidavit” by 4 May (two weeks from today).
The bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Abhay S Oka was hearing a PIL filed by journalist Qurban Ali and Senior Advocate Anjana Prakash (former judge of the Patna High Court) that sought criminal action against alleged anti-Muslim hate speeches made at the Dharam Sansad and the Hindu Yuva Vahini meets held at Haridwar and Delhi respectively in December 2021.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, began by submitting that Delhi Police had tried to justify the call to “kill” as a measure to “save ethics of the community”.
Please see the counter-affidavit of the Delhi Police. He says he has conducted an inquiry, and that the persons had gathered to ‘save ethics of their community’ — that is the response! It reads, ‘Inquiry into the matter has been conducted In respect of hate speech delivered at the auditorium situated at Govindpuri in Delhi. The video link provided by the complainant has been scrutinised. On careful analysis of the video attached with the complaint, no such words have (sic) been heard. After viewing and listening to the video, it is seen the people gathered to save (the) ethics of the 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…Kapil Sibal’s submission
Sibal, dealing with the report of the IO of the Okhla Industrial Area police station, sub-inspector Abhishek Kumar, said, “They say the ‘speech did not contain any hate words again so and so. There was a motive to save the ethics of their community’. That is the defence!”
The advocate said that the rejoinder filed by the petitioners had extracted the transcript of the speech and requested the bench to read the same, adding that he could not read out the speeches aloud.
This prompted the bench to inquire from Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj whether any superior officer had verified the affidavit. Justice AM Khanwilkar told ASG KM Nataraj appearing for Delhi Police,
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 the IOS report? We want to understand from you the affidavit filed before this court by the deputy commissioner of police, a senior officer. We hope that he understands the nuances as also the other aspects. If he has merely reproduced the inquiry report, we can understand. Are you accepting it as a correct finding? Or you need to have a relook at the whole matter? 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?Justice AM Khanwilkar told ASG KM Nataraj
The ASG submitted that a re-look of the matter will be done. “We will have a relook and file a fresh affidavit”, the ASG said.
The bench dictated the following order:
At the outset, Mr Sibal invited our attention to the extracts of the speech and the enquiry report of the Sub Inspector (PS Okh/a Industrial Area) dated 24.03.2022 as also the counter-affidavit filed by Dy Commissioner of Police reiterating (the) same position. In the backdrop of this, the learned ASG seeks time to get instructions from authorities to file a better affidavit. 2 weeks time prayed for. List this matter on May 9. Better affidavit be filed on or before 4 May.
The matter will be heard next on 9 May.
The Delhi Police affidavit
In its affidavit, Delhi Police said that based on the complaints filed by several individuals against the speech of Chavhanke at the event, it conducted an “in-depth investigation” into the video clips of the speeches, and found that no words against any particular community were used.
foundations in less than 10 minutes.
“In-depth investigation of the video and other material found that no hate speech was given against any community. Therefore, after investigation and evaluation of the purported video clip, it was concluded that the alleged speech contained no hate speech against a particular community,” Delhi Police said in its counter-affidavit filed in response to a PIL seeking criminal law action against the speakers at the Haridwar Dharam Sansad and the Hindu Yuva Vahini event.
After a deep inquiry and evaluation of the contents of the video, the police did not find any substance in the videos as per the allegations /eve//ed by the complainants. In the video clip of the Delhi incident, there is no utterance against any particular community. Hence, after inquiry and after evaluation of the alleged video clip, it was concluded that the alleged hate speech did not disclose any hate words against a particular community as alleged.Affidavit by Delhi Police
Delhi Police said, therefore, it had closed the complaints, as it was concluded that no cognisable offence was made out requiring police action.
The affidavit filed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, South East Delhi, Esha Pandey (IPS) further stated, “… none of the words which were spoken during the events in any manner whatsoever overtly or expressly described Indian Muslims as usurpers of territory, and as predators of land, livelihood and of Hindu women and nothing was said which could create an environment of paranoia amongst any religion”.
There is no use of such words which mean or could be interpreted as “open calls of (a) genocide of Muslims”. It is further stated that the persons (sic) gathered at the Yuva Vahini meet “with the motive to save the ethics of their community”.
The court also considered matters related to Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh today
Last week, the court had sought a status report from Uttarakhand Govt on the probe in the Haridwar speech cases. The counsel appearing for the Uttarkhand government submitted that the investigation in the cases has been completed and charge sheets have been filed. The Uttarkhand counsel also raised an objection towards the locus standi of the petitioners.
Sibal submitted that the petitioners have filed a fresh interlocutory application with respect to the Dharam Sansad event held in Himachal Pradesh last week. He submitted that “scandalous” things were said at the event. As the cause list did not notify the appearance of the counsel of the State of Himachal Pradesh today, the bench posted the IA relating to HP to 26 April.