On May 12, 2022, Supreme Court issued notice in the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Jitendra Tyagi a.k.a Wasim Rizvi challenging the Uttarakhand High Court’s order which refused to grant him bail.
Jitendra Tyagi has been charged with Section 153A IPC, (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), an offence which is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years.
The plea was heard by a bench comprising Justice Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath who have listed the matter to be heard on May 17, 2022.
While hearing the plea, Justice Rastogi reportedly asked Senior Advocate Sidarth Luthra, appearing for Tyagi, “What is Dharm Sansad by the way?” Adv. Luthra responded saying, “I’m an Arya Samaji, I don’t know. I have seen videos where people in Saffron clothes got together and gave speeches.”
LiveLaw quoted Justice Ajay Rastogi as saying, “Spoiling the atmosphere! Stay together peacefully, enjoy life.”
Luthra reportedly submitted, “I bow down. We need to be sensitive to people and nation and our citizens. I understand.” However, the bench reportedly said, “Before they ask to sensitise others, they have to sensitise themselves first. They are not sensitised. This is something spoiling the whole atmosphere.”
Noting that the maximum sentence for the offence is three years, and the accused has already been in jail for three months, the bench reportedly asked the complainant counsel, “He is already in custody. What further investigation you would like to be made? It is already complete.”
The complainant counsel informed the bench that Tyagi is determined to not follow the law as he recently released another video pursuant to the incident. Accordingly, the Court asked the Deputy Advocate General for Uttarakhand to take note and sought State’s response on the matter.
Brief background of the case
Jitendra Tyagi, once known as Waseem Rizvi, was the former chairperson of Shia Waqf Board who recently converted to Hinduism. He was arrested by the Uttarakhand Police in January 2022 for his hate speech at the Hindutva conclave Dharam Sansad held in December last year. A bail application was filed by Tyagi before the Uttarakhand High Court which found the speech delivered by Rizvi-Tyagi amounting to “hate speech that intended to wage war, promoted enmity and was derogatory towards Prophet Muhammad”.
Justice Ravindra Maithani refused to grant bail to the accused stating, “This Court refrains to reproduce from the transcript as to what was allegedly stated by the applicant. But, undoubtedly, the transcript reveals that there are huge derogatory remarks against a particular religion; against Prophet. The Prophet has been abused; it intends to wound the religious feelings of persons belonging to a particular religion; it intends to wage war. It promotes enmity. It is a hate speech.” The Court ordered, “Having considered the repeated nature of allegations; the kind of utterances which the applicant has allegedly made, published video message and its possible impact on the society, this Court is of the view that it is not a fit case for bail. Accordingly, the bail application is liable to be rejected.”
On May 19, 2022, the Supreme Court is expected to hear the petitions seeking criminal action against the alleged anti-Muslim hate speeches made at the ‘Dharam Sansad’ in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and Delhi in December 2021. Alongwith the original petition, the Court was informed about the issue of Dharam Sansad held in Una (Himachal Pradesh) and another upcoming event that was likely to be held in Roorke (Uttarakhand). The Supreme Court also considered a petition filed by three retired officers of the Armed Forces (Major General SG Vombatkere, Colonel PK Nair and Major Priyadarshi Chowdhary) seeking probe by a new Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged hate speeches delivered at the Dharam Sansad religious events organised at Haridwar and Delhi.
Two weeks ago on April 26, immediately before the upcoming Dharam Sansad in Uttarakhand, the apex court had sharply pulled up the State government for its failure to explain how it will prevent hate speeches from being made during the upcoming Dharam Sansad scheduled to be held in Roorkee and holding the Chief Secretary of the state responsible for possible lapses, the Court further directed him to place on record the corrective measures to taken by them in case the situation got out of hand. Justice Khanwilkar told the Deputy Advocate General of the State of Uttarakhand Jatinder Kumar Sethi, “You will have to take immediate action. Don't make us say something. There are other ways of preventive action. You know how to do it!”
On behalf of the Chief Secretary when the Counsel for the State of Uttarakhand reassured the Court that they will do their best to prevent any such situation, the Court lashed out at them saying, “It is your duty, you are not doing us a favour!”
Pursuant to court orders, the Haridwar district administration in Uttarakhand had denied permission to hold a ‘Dharam Sansad’ that was scheduled to take place in Roorkee and imposed Section 144 CrPC prohibiting assembly of more than five people within a five-kilometre radius of the Dada Jalalpur village near Roorkee as reported by Scroll.
The Court had also directed the State of Himachal Pradesh to file an affidavit stating the preventive steps that were taken before the Dharam Sansad event in Una and the implementation of the guidelines previously laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India (2018) 9 SCC 501. Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners informed the court that the Collector and Superintendent of Police did not do anything to stop the event despite it being brought to their notice. The Court reportedly asked, “There are guidelines in Poonawalla case. Are you following it? No prevention has been taken. You had to stop it. File affidavit showing what preventive actions were taken by you.”
On an earlier occasion, the Supreme Court had expressed its dissatisfaction with the affidavit filed by Delhi Police with respect to the speeches made by Sudarshan News TV Editor Suresh Chavhanke at the Delhi Dharam Sansad in December 2021 and directed them to file a ‘better affidavit’ by May 4, 2022. According to LiveLaw, the bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Abhay S Oka orally remarked, “The affidavit has been filed by Deputy Commissioner of Police. We hope he has understood the nuances. Has he merely reproduced the inquiry report or applied his mind? Is it your stand as well or the reproduction of inquiry report of Sub inspector level?”