Video editor: Deepthi Ramdas
"When you are confronted with what is, to my mind, the worst kind of hate speech we have seen in post-Independence India, for the executive to remain silent and for the DGP of Uttarakhand Police to say that they have just booked people is shocking!"Dushyant Dave, senior advocate
Reacting to the anti-Muslim hate speeches made by Hindutva leaders in Haridwar, Delhi and elsewhere, senior advocate Dushyant Dave adds, "I cannot even comprehend how the police can act like this - that they are not willing to take action promptly and arrest people."
The following are excerpts from an interview with Dave, who is among the group of 76 lawyers which has written to the Chief Justice of India asking the Supreme Court to take suo moto cognisance of the anti-Muslim hate speeches made in Haridwar and Delhi recently.
'The Prime Minister & Home Minister Are Silent'
The Quint: There have been calls made for genocide of Muslims, calls made for people to pick up arms and kill Muslims. How do you view these developments that have taken place, as a citizen and also as a concerned lawyer?
Dushyant Dave: You can’t engineer riots again and again as you could do in 2002 or in 1984. So, political parties engage in this kind of extraordinarily poor behaviour by outfits which are supporting them from outside. And that is the singular reason why the Prime Minister has not made any statement condemning them. The Home Minister has not uttered a word about it. And of course, there is a complete absence of rule of law because nobody has been arrested so far.
'Wrote to the CJI Because the Executive is Failing Miserably in Acting Against This'
The Quint: You along with 75 other lawyers have written to the Chief Justice of India asking for the Supreme Court to take suo moto cognisance of these hate assemblies. Tell us your reasoning behind wanting the Chief Justice or indeed the Supreme Court to take action on this matter and what action are you hoping that they take.
Dushyant Dave: We have been seeing, as conscious citizens, that the law is not being implemented against the perpetrators (of these hate speeches). In fact, there is a 2014 Supreme Court judgment called Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan versus Union of India, where Supreme court itself had said, and this is very important, that the root of the problem is not the absence of laws but rather a lack of their effective execution, in the context of hate speech. Then the Supreme Court said that the executive as well as civil society has to perform its role in enforcing the already existing legal regime. Now, part of that duty which the Supreme Court has itself recognised, which all of us as citizens have, I think we have performed that duty.
We can only bring it to the notice of the judiciary at the highest level, because we felt and we continue to feel even today that the executive has failed miserably in taking appropriate legal action. And they may not, and what is really also worrisome is that the judiciary at the subordinate level also does not take very strict view of these matters. This issue requires to be resolved now because if we don’t do it we will slide into the kind of sectorial violence which we would not be able to control at all.
'One Rule of Law for Majority Community, Another for Minorities and Civil Society Members'
Dushyant Dave: There is one rule of law for the majority community and there is another rule of law for the minority community or, you know, civil society members. And sadly, this kind of division is not being damned and condemned by the judiciary with the harshest of words and harshest of orders.
You arrested, for example, Munawar Faruqui, for some kind of a standup comedian comment. You have arrested a large number of people, even people who tweeted against Mr. Narendra Modi were arrested within no time. Now, people are damning Mahatma Gandhi and trying to praise Nathuram Godse. They are attacking churches. They are disrupting peaceful meetings for celebrations of Christmas. And yet, all around, this kind of illegal and unconstitutional behaviour is going unchecked.
So, there is no doubt in my mind that these are classic instances where not only provisions of the IPC, but also provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) will equally apply. They must be pressed and all these people must be subjected to the law. Because, if you do not stop them now, you will never be able to stop them. The question is, does the party in power have the will to do it?
'This Calls For Sedition Too'
Dushyant Dave: The rule of law is seriously under challenge today. Police is completely politicised. Therefore, there is nothing which one can expect. They are not acting in accordance with law. So naturally, when they are compelled to act, they will act in as weak a manner if possible. They will present a case, which is so without foundation, that the judge would be naturally left with no alternative but to dismiss that case.
Article 19 1(a) which gives you freedom of speech and expression also imposes several restrictions – it’s not an absolute right. So if you’re trying to disrupt peace, public order, tranquility in the society, if you’re trying to target a section of the society, if you’re trying to incite violence against a section of the society, I think these are very, very serious infractions of laws and there are sufficient provisions provided under the law to really take action including sedition.
To my mind, these speeches are completely seditious.
They (the authorities) should act in accordance with law and take all necessary measures so that a powerful message can be sent across the country that the law will not tolerate this kind of behaviour.