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Haridwar Dharam Sansad Alleged Hate Speech And Relevant Laws

A three days' religious conclave was organised in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. In the said conclave, it is alleged that there was alleged hate speech against a specific religious community and open calls for killing said community by the religious leaders. It is also alleged that the conclave also targeted Ex Pm Dr Manmohan Singh. Meanwhile, we witnessed the same conclave in Delhi on 21st December 2021, which many renowned persons attended.

Hate Speech And Its Legal Relevancy:
We don't have any specific legal definition of Hate speech in the penal Code 1860 or The Constitution of India 1950. It is worth mentioning here we have provisions in the law that criminalise any such speech, writing, action, signs that result in violence and spread disharmony among different communities and groups. They are collectively referred to as Hate Speech.

It is worth mentioning here that the Law Commission of India, in its 267th report, say:
Hate speech is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of person defined in terms of race, ethnicity gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Thus hate speech is ant word written or spoken, signs, visible representation within the hearing or sight of any person to cause fear or violence.

The Law Commission of India also suggested amending IPC and adding sections 153C and 505A dealing with hate speech offences. Further provided the punishments for the said offences.

Section 153 A of IPC Provides the provision regarding promoting enmity among different communities or groups or destroying disharmony. Whosoever commits such an act shall be liable for the imprisonment of a term extending to three years, fine, or both. The subsection also provides punishment of such actions if done in any place of worship or any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies. The imprisonment may extend to a term of five years. The offence under this section is cognizable, Non-Bailable, and triable by Magistrate First Class.

Section 295 A of IPC Provides for the acts intended to outrage religious sentiments and feelings of any class by doing any such action that s its religion or religious beliefs. The maximum Punishment for the said offence is Three years or fine or both. The offence under this section is cognizable, Non-Bailable, and triable by Magistrate First Class. Five
Five people, namely Wasim Rizvi, Sant Dharam das Maharaj, Sadhavi Annapoorna alias Pooja Shakun Pandey, Yati Narsinghanand, and Sagar Maharaj, are booked by the Uttarakhand Police under the said sections, i.e. 153A and 295A IPC concerning Hate speech.

PIL by Journalist Qurban Ali and Senior Advocate Anjana Prakash:
The Concept of Public interest litigation is enshrined in Article 39A of our Indian Constitution, which is aimed to provide and protect justice to all. Before 1980 the only aggrieved party had locus standi to file the PIL, but now anyone can approach the court to secure justice.

In the present case, A PIL has been filed by Journalist Qurban Ali and senior advocate Anjana Prakash. A notice has been issued by a bench comprising CJI NV Ramana and two other judges. The Landmark Judgement of SC Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v/s Union of India (2014) has been cited by the petitioner in which apex court held that hate speech violates Articles 14,19 &21. A person can't make such statements or acts that result in hate speech and claims immunity from any penal actions taken against him under the light of fundamental rights guaranteed to him by the constitution, i.e., right of Freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court agreed to the urgent hearing of the said petition.

What Police Have Done So Far:
The police have arrested two accused, namely Jitendra Narayan Tyagi (alias Waseem Rizvi) & Yati Narsinghanand. Meanwhile, the bail application of Waseem Rizvi has been rejected by the Chief Judicial Magistrate. He said there are no legal grounds to grant him bail. Section 437 of Criminal Procedure Court 1973 provides the power to Magistrate to grant bail to the accused of Non- Bailable offences. There are specific guidelines given the act to be considered while granting bail under Section 437. The apex court held in the State of Rajasthan v/s Balchand Alias Baliay (1978) that bail is the rule and jail is an Exception.

In the present case, Hon'ble Supreme Court has sought responses from Delhi and Uttarakhand Police.

Do We Have Witnessed The Similar Issues In Recent Times?
Irrespective of the fact that which ideology one follows, it is evident that we have seen our leaders being intolerant with every passing day, we have seen how people celebrated the sad demise of our CDS in the recent chopper crash, we have witnessed AIMIM leaders threatening police personnel that they won't enjoy the patronage of CM Yogi and Pm Modi for their entire life, who will protect them over alleged killing of minorities, and these statements were made in a public rally.

One may fail to understand why words like those shouldn't attract the provisions enshrined in Section 153A, 295A, and 505 of IPC. While citing atrocities, a specific community face creates disharmony and enmity among different sections.

Conclusion & Way Forward:
Being a secular country, the Government must provide liberty and freedom to its citizens to enjoy their Right to Life in an absolute sense. The apex court held in 1978 Maneka Gandhi v Union of India that A mere animal existence can't be termed as Right to Life. It means living with dignity. Incidents like Haridwar Dharam Sansad Alleged Hate Speech tarnishes the country's reputation worldwide.

It is equally essential for the Government of India to seriously consider the suggestion of The Law Commission of adding different Sections in the Penal Code dealing with offences like those; the government may also make provisions of hefty fines from the accused so that it may work as a deterrent in the society, only providing education and assuming hate speech and communal offences will end isn't feasible as we already have an example in the present case, all the accused are highly educated, and even Mr Owaissi is himself a Barrister yet allegedly made such statements. One may disagree with the modus operandi Mr Yogi Adityanath of recovering the money from the criminals to the damage they have done to public property, but this has proved efficient; stats suggests we haven't seen any significant Riots in UP after 2017.

Currently, a committee for reforms in Criminal laws, which is considering more comprehensive changes to criminal law, is examining the issue of specific provisions to tackle hate speech. We may see these changes taken place in the Penal Laws very soon.

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