In his first and so far only interview after the solicitor general accused him of making a speech that brings the Supreme Court into disrepute and seeks to instigate people, Harsh Mander has said: “I stand by every word of my speech”.
Questioned closely about a section of his speech when, in response to his own question, where will the future of the country be decided, he said: “On the one hand the decision can be taken on the streets”, Harsh Mander said that the phrase ‘on the streets’ means we the people of India. He said he was definitely talking about protests but he did not in any way intend for the phrase to imply violent protests or any form of insurrection. When asked specifically whether he should have been more careful about using the phrase “on the streets” Mander said, at least twice, that he stands by it. He does not regret using it.
In a nearly 45-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Mander pointed out that immediately after he said “the decision can be taken on the streets” he went on to speak at great length about how it had to be taken non-violently and on the basis of love.
In his speech, he said “we have only one answer to their hatred and that answer is love … most importantly, we have to fight with non-violence. Anyone who incites you to violence and hatred is not a friend of yours.” Mander also ended the speech with the slogan ‘Samvidhaan Zindabad‘.
Mander told The Wire that by carefully selecting an edited version of the speech to make his case in the Supreme Court, the solicitor general had acted “mischievously”. He suggested the intention was to deflect the attention of the top court from more pressing issues, such as the hate speech petition he had filed. He said the solicitor general’s claim that Harsh Mander had said he had no faith in the court was false.
Mander said he could not understand why on two separate occasions the Supreme Court refused to hear his full speech but, instead, relied on the solicitor general’s version of it, which turned out to be not just edited but false. Had the court heard the full speech, either on the 4th or the 6th, it’s possible they might have quashed the case immediately.
Mander told The Wire that he “completely disagreed” with the Chief Justice’s prioritisation. The CJI decided to hear the hate speech petition he filed only after establishing the truth about his own December 16 speech. Harsh Mander said even “a convicted criminal or the most evil person” has a right to appeal to the Supreme Court. By first questioning the credentials of the petitioner before hearing the content of his petition, the Chief Justice has set a terrible precedent.
Worse, Chief Justice Bobde has clearly prioritised statements that he believes slur the reputation of the Supreme Court over hate speech which has led to actual deaths and affects the lives of tens if not hundreds of millions of people.
Mander said that he believes the police are out to get at him and that this is a vendetta. However, he added that the intention was not just to personally target him, but to use him to portray the peaceful protests as seditious and as a threat to the stability of the country.
According to him, the protests will continue and are not going to fizzle out. He said it was possible there could be more riots although not in Delhi.
He said the protests have already succeeded on two fronts. First, they have forged deep bonds across all communities which has not happened since Mahatma Gandhi’s last fast in 1948. He says it happened briefly after the Sikh killings of 1984 but this time it has happened on an unprecedented nationwide scale. Second, he says students across India have woken up and are fighting to protect the constitution. However, he accepted that a new phase has to start and the next goal must be to ensure that the National Population Register does not happen at this stage but only after the census has been successfully completed next year.
Finally, Mander told The Wire that he is fully confident that whenever the Supreme Court hears the CAA case it will find the CAA unconstitutional and strike it down.
The above is a paraphrased precis of Harsh Mander’s interview. Please see the full interview for accurate details.