The Supreme Court on 2 August rejected a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that had sought a ban on the book Muhammad. But the reason was not upholding free speech. Rather, the court said that making a certain article of the constitution the basis of the plea would be "dangerous". Besides, the court said that the trial of the duo accused of 'hate speech' must be finished first.
The court also refused to order the arrest of the book’s author, Jitendra Tyagi — previously known as Wasim Rizvi — and the head priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple, Yati Narsinghanand, for alleged hate speech.
The Hindi book on Mohammed, Islam's prophet, was published in November 2021.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by the Indian Muslim Shia Isna Ashari Jamaat, a Shia religious organisation. The petition asked the court to order Tyagi and Narsinghanand’s “preventive arrest” and restrain them “making incendiary and hurtful remarks against the religion of Islam”. Tyagi, a former chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board, was converted to Hinduism by Narsinghanand last year.
The petition, which was filed in February 2022, said the duo was a “threat to the security and integrity, the social harmony and public peace and to the law-and-order situation”.
The court indicated that allowing the petition would amount to accepting the charges before the case was tried.
"You are asking us to order a criminal investigation under Article 32, That we cannot do,” the bench headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit told the petitioners. “If we allow this, then what will happen during the trial? You can avail the appropriate remedy, not here.”
Article 32 confers the right to approach the Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.
The petitioner then agreed to drop the demand and asked the court to consider the other prayers in the petition, but the court dismissed the petition in its entirety.
Tyagi and Narsinghanand have been accused of making hate speeches in the past and were arrested in January for allegedly delivering provocative speeches at the Dharm Sansad held in Haridwar in December 2021 — an assembly of Hindu ascetics that asserted that the Hindu community was facing a civilisational assault by the alien religion.
Two months after his arrest, the Uttarakhand High Court had denied him bail.
Four months after his arrest, the Supreme Court granted Tyagi bail on medical grounds for three months. On 29 August, the Supreme Court refused to extend his bail and told him to surrender by 2 September. The court had said then that his regular bail application would be heard on 9 September.
This stood in contrast to the case of Teesta Setalvad accused of tampering evidence and tutoring witnesses in cases of Gujarat riots, 2002, where the Supreme Court asked the Gujarat High Court why the latter was delaying hearing the bail application of the accused, and granted her bail within two months of her arrest.
Tyagi surrendered before a court in Haridwar yesterday.