Bombay HC directs two police commissioners to personally examine videos of speeches delivered by BJP MLA Nitesh Rana, Geeta Jain and T. Raja Singh

The division bench remarked that it prima facie found from the speech transcript that some offence seemed to have been committed; bench also took exception to the press conference held by BJP MLA Nitesh Rane from the police commissioner’s office in Mira-Bhayander

On April 8, the Bombay High Court directed two police commissioners to personally examine videos of speeches delivered by three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), namely Nitesh Rane, Geeta Jain and T. Raja Singh, in relation to the Mira Road violence of January 2024. The direction was passed in the writ petition moved before the Bombay High Court to seek action against the three BJP leaders for delivering hate speeches and inciting violence during January in Naya Nagar, Mira Road area of Thane, Maharashtra.

As per a report in Bar&Bench, while issuing the direction, the division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Manjusha Deshpande remarked that it prima facie found from the speech transcript that some offence seemed to have been committed. However, as stated by the bench, in order to avoid any partiality or political pressure, it would be best if the police commissioners personally examine the videos and transcripts of the speeches.

It is essential to highlight here that the same division bench of the Bombay HC had given permission to BJP MLA T.Raja Singh to take out a rally in Mira Road in February after the state police had denied him permission. Justices R.P. Mohite Dere and Manusha Ajay Deshpande had granted permission to Singh to conduct the proposed rally on the conditions that no hate speeches are made and that the event is videotaped by the police so that required action can be taken post the event takes place and suo-moto FIRs can be filed, if necessary. (The details can be read here.)

It is essential to note that the Court also took exception of the press conference held by BJP MLA Nitesh Rane from the police commissioner’s office in Mira-Bhayander. As per the report, the Court found the same to be “unacceptable”.

“Police premises should not be used for such events henceforth. It would lead to deterioration of confidence of citizens in police as also the trust that police are impartial,” the Bench remarked upon the same.

In reference to this, the bench also expressed its displeasure over the conduct of the police by remarking that such FIRs only reduced the police’s reputation, as it gave out a signal that anyone can hold a rally and say anything.

“FIR under Section 188 is just watering down your own authority and reputation. Would the same action be taken if the petitioners come to Azad Maidan (in Mumbai) tomorrow and decide to hold a rally? And why couldn’t the rally be stopped midway if you find that it is happening illegally?”

As per the report of Bar&Bench, Chief Public Prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar for the State government responded to the question put forth by the court by stating that such cultural rallies, like those held annually on Ram Navami, were difficult to control and manage.

However, the Court directed the police to ensure that no untoward incident happens during the upcoming Ram Navami festival on April 17.

Notably, the petition has been posted for hearing on April 15.

The petition:

The five petitioners who have moved the said plea are residents of Mumbai, including two who were themselves victims of the violence that had taken place in Mira Road on January 22. (Full details can be read here.)

The petition has emphasised upon filing of FIR against the three for allegedly delivering hate speeches by providing in the petition that “if action is not taken against individual like MLA Nitesh Rane, MLA Geeta Jain, and Legislator T. Raja Singh for spreading hate speech and inciting violence, the same may embolden them as well as other political leaders to resort to hate speech and incitement with the sole aim of polarizing the citizens for votes. It is submitted that the same may not only result in widespread violence, but shall also hamper free and fair elections, which are part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India”.

The main contention raised by the petitioners through the writ petition is that the state police had an obligation to file the suo-moto FIRs against those making hate speeches, as had been necessitated by the Supreme Court for India in its October 2022 and January 13 order. In the said orders. Notably, the orders had directed all State and Union Territories to take suo-moto action against hate speeches that are in contravention to the secular character of the country. The bench had directed the police officer to invoke their powers and file cases against those hate speakers without giving any regards to their religion (the details of the said order can be read here).

The petitioners have sought directions to the police to register FIRs against MLAs Nitesh Rane, Geeta Jain, and T. Raja Singh under sections 153, 153A, 153B, 295A, 504, and 505 of the IPC for allegedly having delivered hate speeches in Mira Road, Govandi, and Ghatkopar on various dates.

Further details of the writ petition along with the transcription of the speeches can be read here.



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