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Hate speech: Uttarakhand says four FIRs registered, SC asks state to file status report

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New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Uttarakhand government to file a status report by April 22 after the state said that four FIRs have been registered in connection with the alleged hate speeches made in December last year during an event in Haridwar.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and A S Oka was informed by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for the petitioners, that a similar event is scheduled on April 17 in Himachal Pradesh.

The apex court, while granting liberty to serve advance copy of the application on the standing counsel for the state of Himachal Pradesh, said the applicant is free to give intimation to authorities concerned in the state about the event in light of the order passed by the court earlier.

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

It had then said the petitioners were at liberty to make a representation to the local authorities regarding such events, after Sibal had told the court that a ‘Dharam Sansad’ was scheduled in Aligarh.

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

During the hearing on Wednesday, the counsel appearing for Uttarakhand sought time to file counter affidavit in the matter.

“Today is the first returnable date. We are for the state. We are seeking some time to file counter,” the counsel said.

“We have registered four FIRs and in three of them, chargesheets have already been filed,” the state’s counsel said, adding that he can file a status report in the matter.

The bench told Uttarakhand’s counsel to file it and said the matter would be taken up on April 22.

Sibal told the bench that the next event is in Himachal Pradesh and they have filed an application for impleading the state in the matter.

“The problem is, the event (in Himachal Pradesh) is on Sunday. That’s the real problem. And see what is happening. I don’t even want to read what the kind of things that are being….,” Sibal said, adding that notice may be issued to Himachal Pradesh.

The bench said it would permit them to serve the standing counsel for the state of Himachal Pradesh and the matter would be listed for hearing on April 22.

“Liberty to serve advance copy of the application on the standing counsel for the state of Himachal Pradesh. The state of Uttarakhand to file a status report before the next date of hearing,” the apex court said.

Sibal told the bench that the first order passed on the plea by a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana had said that petitioners can intimate the authority about such events.

“Needless to observe that the applicant is free to give intimation to   authorities concerned in the state of Himachal Pradesh in light of the order….,” the bench said.

On January 12, the apex court had asked the Centre, the Delhi Police and the Uttarakhand Police to respond to the plea.

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 ofthe  apex 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 genocide of members” of a community, it has said.

The Uttarakhand Police had filed an FIR on December 23 last year under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against some persons including Sant Dharamdas Maharaj, Sadhvi Annapoorna alias Pooja Shakun Pandey, Yati Narsinghanand and Sagar Sindhu Maharaj.

A similar complaint was filed with the Delhi Police for the second event organised in the national capital.

The plea has alleged that no effective steps have been taken by the Uttarakhand and the Delhi Police.

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