Delhi HC Accepts Centre's Logic, Gives 4 Weeks to Respond to Plea Seeking Hate Speech FIR

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta had failed to convince Justice Muralidhar earlier that the situation wasn't "conducive" for an FIR. But with Chief Justice Patel hearing the matter, his plea carried the day.

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Thursday gave the Centre four weeks to file a counter-affidavit in response to a plea seeking registration of FIRs against politicians for making incendiary statements that allegedly incited mob attacks and riots in North East Delhi. The matter will now be heard on April 13.

The bench, which comprised Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar adjourned the hearing of the petition filed by activist Harsh Mander for an enquiry into the riots in Delhi. The petition also sought FIRs against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma.

The matter was heard on Wednesday by Justices S. Muralidhar and Talwant Singh and the bench gave the Delhi Police 24 hours to take a ‘conscious decision’ on filing the FIRs. However, the matter reverted to the chief justice’s court and the police found itself off the hook.

On Thursday, the court noted: “SG had submitted before the court that the Union is seized of the matter. Further, it was submitted that Union has gone through all the videos and needs more time to take appropriate action as the situation is not conducive today. Rahul Mehra, Standing Counsel Delhi Government, informed the court that till now 48 FIRs have been registered. In light of these developments, Union of India is granted four weeks to file a counter affidavit”

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, a counsel for petitioner Harsh Mander, had sought a closer date and said, “10-12 people are dying every day”. However, the bench fixed the next date of hearing on April 13.

A man is beaten in North East Delhi on February 24. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The court’s order came after solicitor general Tushar Mehta submitted that the situation was not “conducive” for registration of FIRs. “The condition is not conducive at this moment. FIRs will be registered at an appropriate time,” Mehta said.

Mehta also told the bench that 48 FIRs have been lodged in relation to the violence and there should be no judicial intervention till normalcy was restored in the national capital.

Also Read: Supreme Court Slams Delhi Police for ‘Unprofessionalism’ While Handling Riots

Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police, told the bench that since the Centre is responsible for maintaining law and order in Delhi, it be made a party in the matter, which was allowed by the court.

Mehta also argued that that petitioner was selectively seeking action against speeches made by BJP leaders.

Senior counsel Gonsalves urged the court to direct the police to file FIRs against politicians for hate speeches. “These slogans disrupted everything. People were asked to go and kill. Most evil thing to do is to preach hatred which resulted in multiple deaths,” Gonsalves said. “These persons are very highly placed leaders in the ruling party. If they can say such things, what can we expect from ordinary people.”

In accordance with the dictum in the Lalitha Kumari guidelines, he said that the court needed to direct the registration to FIRs and also pointed out that the bench convened the previous day had expressed a “prima facie” view regarding the need for registering FIR, and sought for follow up action on that direction.

Senior advocate Chetan Sharma also made submissions during the hearing. Sharma was appearing for ‘Lawyers Voice’ which has sought the registration of FIRs for alleged hate speeches by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Asaduddin Owaisi and alleged that violence carried out during US President Donald Trump’s visit was calculated.

Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma.

On Wednesday, a Delhi high court bench comprising Justices Muralidhar and Talwant Singh had asked the Delhi Police to ‘take a conscious decision with respect to the registration of FIRs’ against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra, and others, who made alleged hate speeches.

Also read: HC Judge Who Pulled Up Delhi Police Over Riots Shunted Out by Modi Govt

After solicitor general Mehta held that FIRs would be “registered at an appropriate stage”, Justice Muralidhar asked, “Which is that appropriate stage? After the city has burnt down?”

After the solicitor general continued to press for more time to make submissions and said that he was not aware of the facts, Justice Muralidhar asked Mehta if he had watched videos of the violence and if he still thought the matter is not urgent. The solicitor general said he had not watched any videos, adding that he doesn’t watch “TV or news” before making his submissions. “Unfortunately that’s not the privilege that judges have,” Justice Muralidhar responded.

The petition was originally listed before a bench to be headed by Chief Justice Patel. However, in view of his absence, the matter was considered by a bench headed by Justice S Muralidhar, who was the next available senior judge then. After the hearing, the matter reverted back to the chief justice’s court.

Late on Wednesday, the Centre notified Justice Muralidhar’s transfer to Punjab and Haryana high court. The transfer had led to protests by the Bar Association.

(With inputs from PTI)