The event was organised by controversial Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand
The three accused named in the First Information Report (FIR) pertaining to the hate speeches at a religious event in Haridwar between December 17 and 19 may not face imminent arrest owing to several Supreme Court orders and observation that bars the police from arrest where the maximum possible sentence for an offence is seven years or less, a senior Uttarakhand government official said. At the event, calls were made for genocide and violence against Muslims.
After the video clips of the event went viral, the Haridwar police on December 23 registered a case under Section 153A (a and b) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), entailing a maximum punishment of five years. Based on a complaint received by a local initially only one person- former chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board Wasim Rizvi, who became Jitendra Narayan Tyagi, was named in the FIR. But on December 26, the names of Annapurna Maa alias Pooja Shakun Pandey, ‘Mahamandleshwar’ of Niranjini Akhada and general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha; and Dharamdas Maharaj, a resident of Bihar, were added to the FIR. No arrests have been made in the case so far.
Also read: Striking fear: On Haridwar hate speech and legal action
The official said the Supreme Court on May 7 ordered that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities need to strictly control and limit arresting the accused persons in line with the guidelines laid down by the court in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014). The judgement was to ensure that police officers do not arrest the accused unnecessarily and magistrates do not authorise detention casually and mechanically, particularly in cases where the punishment was seven years or less. The order was issued to check the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
The video clips have been sent for forensic examination to gather more evidence, the official noted.
The event was organised by controversial Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand, who called on the Hindu youth to become “Prabhakaran” and “Bhindranwale” and provoked Hindus to pick up arms against Muslims.
“We are examining Narsinghanand’s speech and getting the content legally examined. Till now he has not been named in the FIR,” the official stated. Narsinghanand has several FIRs registered against him in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi for hate speeches.
Also read: Inflammatory speeches a prelude to genocide, says Ashok Gehlot
On August 20, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy said, “Merely because an arrest can be made because it is lawful does not mandate that arrest must be made.”
As reported earlier, whether the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) could be added to the existing case was being legally examined and the police are also exploring if a case under Section 124 A of the IPC (sedition) can be invoked in the case or not.
Though the Uttarakhand police have been treading cautiously on making arrests, there have been several instances when the police have not followed the apex court guidelines. In January last, comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested in Indore for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. Though the IPC sections he was booked under prescribe a jail term of up to only two years, he was arrested and spent over a month in jail before being granted bail by the top court on February 5.
In 2008, the Congress-led UPA government made amendments to Section 41 the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which said that instead of arresting the accused in cases where punishment was less than seven years they may issue a notice of appearance.
Letter to CJI
On Sunday, 76 Supreme Court lawyers wrote to Chief Justice of India N.V Ramana to take suo motu cognisance of the Haridwar event and direct that action be taken against the guilty persons under Sections 120B, 121A, 153A, 153B, 295A and 298 of the IPC, 1860. The sections pertain to criminal conspiracy, deliberate intent to hurt religious feelings among others, the maximum punishment being life imprisonment.
The letter stated, “It is also pointed out that the recent speeches are a part of a series of similar speeches that we have come across in the past. It may be noted that no effective steps have been taken under the provisions of 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 504, 506, 120B, 34 of IPC in respect of the earlier hate speeches. Thus, urgent judicial intervention is required to prevent such events that seem to have become the order of the day.”
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