Delhi HC adjourns noted activist Harsh Mander’s plea to April 13
The Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing in noted activist Harsh Mander’s plea, filed in the wake of the riots in Delhi, to April 13
The Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing in noted activist Harsh Mander's plea, filed in the wake of the riots in Delhi, to April 13.
The Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar also allowed the impleadment of the Central government in the matter and granted it four weeks to file a counter affidavit, reports legal news website barandbench.com.
The order was passed following submissions made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The SG said that it is not conducive to file FIRs in the matter for hate speech at present.
Mehta placed on record an affidavit regarding the registration of FIRs in the matter, submitting that the issue has been considered. He informed the court that a decision was taken to defer the registration of FIRs.
"I have avoided making statements which are not conducive. Authorities have examined all audio-video material. We have decided to defer the registration of FIR," Mehta said.
He added, "The condition is not conducive at this moment. FIRs will be registered at an appropriate time."
This submission was, however, opposed by Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra, who asked, "When 11 FIRs have already been registered with respect to the Delhi riots, why not register FIR for hate speech?"
Mehra added, "All of us are concerned about that is happening in Delhi, including the Centre and state, the petitioner and everyone else."
"The paramount concern should be the welfare of citizens at this moment. All of them are not here... they are suffering," Mehra said.
Whereas the Commissioner of Delhi Police today told the High Court that 48 FIRs have been registered over the violence so far, SG Mehta pointed out that the same pertained to destruction of property.
He went on to assert again that, "At this juncture when all stakeholders are working to ensure normalcy, any hurried intervention may not be conducive."
Echoing arguments made before the Bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh yesterday, Mehta also re-asserted that Mander's petition had selectively focused on three speeches alone.
"The petitioner in his wisdom picked three speeches as hate speech accordingly to him. I argued that there could be such selective choosing...There are large number of speeches that we have received. We can't be choosy and selective about it", said Mehta.
As he concluded his submissions for the day, Mehta again urged that more time be granted to respond to Mander's plea.
On the other hand Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing Harsh Mander, pointed out that the Supreme Court's Lalita Kumari judgment called for the immediate registration of FIRs in matters concerning hate speech.
He argued that prior to the recent riots, the ongoing protests were proceeding peacefully.
"The protest was going on peacefully...that is quite significant that you can have strong protests and yet society remained peaceful. It is the sign of strength of the Indian democracy."
However, referring to the violence that took place from February 23 onwards, Gonsalves submitted, "There was widespread setting of fire of property. Therefore, the High Court yesterday said that these video clips were seen by everyone. If hate speech is resulting in murder, these three and many others are responsible...This is a case in which Lalita Kumari straight away applies. FIRs have to be registered immediately."
He added, "We want an order, very quickly, that since it is indisputable that the statements were made. It is a clear cut and prima facie case that it is hate speech resulting in murder..."
"The crime is so serious and the repetition is on an everyday basis. These people are very high people in party and the government...the implication is that it's alright to kill."
Referring to slogans and speeches made by various BJP leaders, Gonsalves pointed out, "You can clearly link the acts of violence with the provocative speeches made."
Rebutting submissions made by advocate Chetan Sharma, who appeared for Lawyers' Voice, that the submissions were selective, Gonsalves also asserted that action should be initiated against anyone who indulged in hate speech.
"They should be taken off the streets of Delhi and a message should be sent that no matter who you are, the moment you incite, you will be held responsible," said Gonsalves.
Sharma, however, echoed submissions made by Mehta against any immediate action, arguing that, "Like SG Mehta said, this is not the time for pro active judicial intervention. Delhi needs peace," Sharma said.
Sharma added, "It is a very sensitive time. Let's see what reply comes. Today we do A,B,C, what we may order may be preemptive...Why did all this start, who started? Who said come on the streets? One person says clear the streets and that person should be arrested?"
As the hearing today drew to a close, Gonsalves requested that the matter be listed soon.
"Every day 10-12 people are dying. Please give us a short date," he said.
However, the court proceeded to adjourn the matter to April 13, after impleading the Central government in the matter.