Brinda Karat moves Delhi HC, challenges order refusing hate speech FIR against Anurag Thakur, Pravesh Verma 

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja had dismissed Karat’s application stating respondents are Members of Parliament, and prior gov't sanction was required under Section 196 CrPC

Hate speech

Activist and Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat continues to seek legal action against hate speeches by politicians who were targeting those protesting anti-CAA-NRC-NPR and whose words could have incited mobs to violence. Karat has now approached the Delhi High Court and challenged the trial court order that had dismissed her plea seeking that a First Information Report (FIR) be registered against Union Minister Anurag Thakur, and  Pravesh Verma, his party colleague and Member of Parliament from Delhi for their alleged hate speeches, targeting those who participated in the anti-CAA protests in Delhi, especially at Shaheen Bagh area. 

Karat has challenged the August 26 order by a trial court which rejected her plea on technical grounds that certain ‘prior sanctions’ from the Central government had not been obtained, as required under the law. Brinda Karat and CPI (M) leader KM Tewari had filed a complaint in the trial court seeking directions to the Parliament Street Police Station to register the FIR against Thakur and Verma. However, the trial court ruled that the complaint was not sustainable without the prior sanction. 

Karat, in her petition in the HC, has sought quashing of the trial court’s order and also a direction for expeditious disposal of applications under Section 156(3) CrPC (power of a magistrate to direct the police to conduct investigation in respect of a cognisable offence) and that technical objections and maintainability be decided at the threshold to avoid prejudice to the complainant and wastage of judicial time, stated news reports based on news agency inputs. The plea, according to a report in the IE has been filed through advocate Tara Narula, and states that “the relevant provision of CrPC demonstrates that the sanction to be taken thereunder is a sanction for taking cognisance.” It stated that “It is settled law that the stage of cognisance does not arise at a time when directions under Section 156(3) CrPC are given, and as such, no sanction is required under either Section 195 or 196 CrPC for the registration of an FIR and/or for investigation.” 

According to news agency reports the HC plea contended, “When the State and the police have pointedly excused the speeches of the accused and other persons, the petitioners submit that the only recourse available to them is judicial.” It added, “The petitioners’ judicial recourse has been barred by the ACMM without considering that the very State that is supportive of the accused persons (who are sitting Members of Parliament) would function as the Sanctioning Authority. Public policy and the interest of justice demand that this court forms a view on the content of the speeches given by the accused on the basis of settled law and opine whether cognisable offence is made out thereupon.” 

Last month Karat had called the dismissal “surprising and disappointing,”  it was in January, that Karat had filed a complaint against the hate speeches made by BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma and asked Delhi police for filing an FIR under relevant sections, including Sec 153 a IPC. After the Police refused to respond, an application was filed in the appropriate Magistrate’s Court, as per procedure. After the dismissal Karat said that “the court heard full arguments from our side as the complainants, as well as from the Delhi Police who argued that no cognisable offence was made out. Judgement was reserved but since others went to the High Court it was delayed. Now that HC asked the magistrate to dispose of the application, at this stage to rule that prior sanction even to direct registration of a FIR is required under Section 196 of CrPC is most surprising. The police had not raised this objection. Why hear arguments on merits then? Why not hold this at the threshold in February?” She has called this an “unfair judicial process which has resulted in excusing those who make hate speeches even where there is prima facie evidence.” Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate  Vishal Pahuja dismissed Brinda Karat’s application on the technicality. It was noted that for prosecution of the respondents, who are Members of Parliament, the prior sanction of the Central government, was required under Section 196 CrPC.

The plea in Delhi HC has noted that the registration of FIR is already extremely delayed despite cognisable offences being made out. Karat has already stated to the trial court that “Thakur and Verma had sought to incite people as a result of which three incidents of firing took place at two different protest sites in Delhi.” 

The complaint had sought lodging of FIRs under various sections, including 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.), 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the IPC. 

It had also sought action under other sections of the IPC, including 298 (uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation). 

The maximum punishment for the offences is jail term for seven years. 

Karat approached courts after her written complaints to the Commissioner of Police and the SHO, Parliament Street, did not get  any response. She had written to the commissioner on January 29 and also on January 31, she wrote to the SHO Parliament Street  on February 2. According to news reports Karat had mentioned that at the Rithala rally, Thakur, the minister of state for finance and corporate affairs, had on January 27 egged on the crowd to raise an incendiary slogan “desh ke gadarron ko…. goli maaro s*****n ko or “shoot the traitors” in his  verbal attack on the anti-CAA protesters. 




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