Hate-Offender Raja Singh granted conditional bail, investigations into offences continue

As a part of his bail conditions, Singh has been instructed that he should not take out any processions, should not speak to the media, and should desist from making any inflammatory speech on social media

Raja Singh

Two and a half months after he was detained under a preventive detention law on charges of inciteful speech, and a day before the Hyderabad city police found strong evidence confirming voice samples of BJP legislator from Goshamahal, T. Raja Singh, he was granted bail by the Telanagana High Court. Raja Singh is a frequent offender making inciteful speeches, with a huge following; the latest case involved hate-driven comments under Prophet Mohammed.

On November 10, 2022, the Hyderabad city police, investigating the hate speech case registered against BJP legislator from Goshamahal T. Raja Singh, found strong evidence in the form of the forensic lab report that confirmed his voice samples. This case was registered against Raja Singh after he had released a video on August 22, 2022 making remarks against a particular community. Protests had erupted in the city seeking strict action against him.

The recorded speech, along with previous documentation of his speeches made in the State Assembly in the past, were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory (TSFSL) for a voice match with the voice of the person making the the hate speech video in September. The resultant lab report has now confirmed that the voice in the ten-minute hate-speech video was that of the legislator. The video clip was compared with his voice samples collected from the TS Assembly secretariat, for the verification of the authenticity of his voice.

The FSL report, according to police authorities involved in the investigation, will be crucial in proving the case in court. In order to make a compelling case against Singh, more evidence is also being gathered. They stated that a charge sheet would soon be submitted to the court for a trial. [1]

Just a day before, the repeat hate-offender was released on bail. On November 9, 2022, repeated hate offender Raja Singh was granted bail by the Telangana High Court. Ordering the release of suspended Goshamahal BJP MLA Raja Singh, who was arrested in August for allegedly making offensive remarks about Prophet Mohammed, conditions were imposed on the bail granted to him. This comes nearly two-and-a-half months after he was detained under the Preventive Detention Act (PDA).

A division bench of the High Court, comprising of Justice Annireddy Abhishek Reddy and Justice Juvvadi Sridevi, rescinded the detention orders against Raja Singh and granted him conditional bail while also prohibiting him from making provocative comments, anti-minority speeches, or sharing offensive posts on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp, as well as in print or electronic media.

The division bench prohibited the suspended BJP MLA from holding celebratory rallies or meetings upon his release, as well as from addressing the media. The division bench was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Raja Singh’s wife T. Usha Bai through her counsel, challenging the PDA proceedings against him. The legislator is not allowed to participate in processions, welcome gatherings, and festivities.

In addition, the court mandated that only Raja Singh’s lawyer, his wife Usha Bai, and four of his family members be present when he was released from jail, whether inside or outside. He has now been released, following the HC order.

Senior counsel L. Ravichander, representing Raja Singh, and Advocate General B.S. Prasad presented extensive arguments before the division bench on their behalf.   According to the Deccan Chronicle, senior counsel L. Ravichander said during his closing arguments that “democracy was not about saying the correct things, but about the right to be wrong.” He consistently argued before the bench that a government could not interpret Raja Singh’s words to refer to “the Prophet” based only on a “fatwa.” He further criticised the government for viewing a law and order issue as a “threat to public order” and the detaining authority for engaging in “colorful use of law.”

The suspended BJP MLA is a habitual offender, according to the Advocate General, who also claimed that the detenue’s behavior did not justify his one-year preventative imprisonment.

The arrest

In response to a social media video he had shared in retaliation to comedian Munawar Faruqui’s performance in Hyderabad, Singh was initially detained on August 23. At the time, he had allegedly made derogatory statements against the Prophet.

The BJP suspended him from the party following a furore over his remarks. The Hyderabad police apprehended him right away, but the 14th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court denied the police’s request for remand since Singh was not served with a notice as required by CrPC Section 41 prior to his arrest.

According to CrPC Section 41, police served Singh with two notices on August 24 and requested that he appear in person for questioning regarding alleged anti-Prophet statements he made in April. Singh had allegedly made these remarks while at an event to celebrate Ramnavami.

Charges imposed: Sections 295(a) (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings); 153(a) (promoting enmity among people of different religions); 505(1)(b) (intent to cause fear in public) and 505 (issuing statements promoting enmity among religions) of the IPC

The Hyderabad Police Commissioner’s Task Force arrested him on August 25 in relation to his remarks from April and filed a PD Act complaint against him. He was initially given a 14-day judicial detention sentence by a local court, which was then extended, as Singh appealed to the PD Act Advisory Board.

On October 10, Singh also responded to the show-cause notice that BJP member secretary Om Pathak had served on him for his remarks on August 23. In his response, Singh denied breaking the BJP’s rules and defended the social media video he posted.

“I made a video to make people understand how Munawar Faruqui does his show. I neither belittled any religion nor did I criticise the gods of any religions in my video. I did not use abusive or harsh language. I didn’t mention the name of any individual in my video. I didn’t deliberately hurt the sentiments of any religion. As directed by the MIM, the TRS government filed a false case against me intentionally. I have been detained in jail by invoking the PD Act. In my video, I only imitated Munawar Faruqui, that too, based on information provided on Google. I neither hurt any religion’s sentiments nor criticised any religion. Hence, I believe that I have not violated Rule XXV 10(a) of the constitution of BJP as mentioned in the disciplinary notice,” he said in his reply, as provided by Indian Express.

Indian Jurisprudence on Hate Speech

The Supreme Court has, especially since 2014, developing some jurisprudence on the issue of hate speech that had seen scant findings earlier. In the late 1980s and 1990s, significant Bombay High Court judgements under the Representation of People’s Act (Sections 123a and 123b) that direct prohibition and prosecution of the “misuse of religion for political ends” were upturned by the highest court. In 2004, however, the Supreme Court upheld prohibition of entry to controversial Vishwa Hingu Parishad (VHP) leader, Praveen Togadia into Tamil Nadu that had previously been denied by the district magistracy but overturned by the High Court.

In 2014, 2018 and 2021, through three separate judgements, the Supreme Court has deepened understanding on the issue and drawn a distinction between free speech and hate speech. Currently, too, the Supreme Court is hearing three separate petitions on the issue where petitioners are asking for specific directions/interventions to curtail the deleterious phenomenon that has clear political sanction.

The Supreme Court recently took a serious note of the ‘disturbing’ nature of hate speeches ‘against one community’ and asked police to take suo moto action in such speech cases ‘even if no complaint is forthcoming and proceed against the offenders’. In its October 21 order, the apex court had stated that ‘any hesitation to act in accordance with this direction will be viewed as contempt of this Court and appropriate action will be taken against the erring officers.’

What constitutes Hate Speech?

According to the United Nations, hate speech ‘refers to offensive discourse targeting a group or an individual based on inherent characteristics (such as race, religion or gender) and that may threaten social peace.’ It identifies hate speech as a ‘precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide.’

The Law Commission of India had in March 2017, submitted a report to the Supreme Court on hate speech. On page 38, the report defines hate speech as an ‘expression which is abusive, insulting, intimidating, harassing or which incites violence, hatred or discrimination against groups identified by characteristics such as one’s race, religion, place of birth, residence, region, language, caste or community, sexual orientation or personal convictions.’

In this 2017 Report, now quoted by the Supreme Court in its recent October 2022 Order, the court states: (Law Commission of India report, quotes):

6.31 Hate speech generally is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like (sections 153A, 295A read with section 298 IPC). Thus, hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.

6.32 Hate speech poses complex challenges to freedom of speech and expression. The constitutional approach to these challenges has been far from uniform as the boundaries between impermissible propagation of hatred and protected speech vary across jurisdictions. A difference of approach is discernible between the United States and other democracies. In the United States, hate speech is given wide constitutional protection; whereas under international human rights covenants and in other western democracies, such as Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom, it is regulated and subject to sanctions.

6.33 In view of the above, the Law Commission of India is of considered opinion that new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address the issues elaborately dealt with in the preceding paragraphs. Keeping the necessity of amending the penal law, a draft amendment bill, namely, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017 suggesting insertion of new section 153C (Prohibiting incitement to hatred) and section 505A (Causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases) annexed as part of the 2017 Law Commission Report was specifically flagged by the SC in its September 21 order.

CJP’s decades long experience in acting on and prosecuting hate speech has led to a wider community of citizens active on the issue. CJP’s regular monitoring of social media platforms have led us to consistently campaign with these platforms and also with state authorities and the NBDSA.

CJP’s Experience with FB:

For example, in October 2018 we complained to Ms. Ankhi Das, the Public Policy Director, India, South & Central Asia, Facebook about the vandalisation of a Church in Varanasi, St. Thomas Church in the prime minister’s parliamentary constituency, by extremists, some of whom had also previously posted –on Facebook –inflammatory content targeting the Christian community. No response.

In 2019, our Hate Watch programme had analysed how one elected official of the influential ruling BJP party from a state in the south, Telangana amplified a rumour and added his own hate-filled speech on Facebook where he had half a million viewers. A year earlier, he had called for a vicious economic boycott of “terrorist Kashmiris” during the Amarnath Yatra on a video that has been viewed 3,00,000 times. Finally, he was a central figure flagged in the Aug 2020 WSJ Report on how the corporation ignored hate speech by BJP leaders in India to protect its business interests.

By March 2021, when FB finally concluded that he, Raja Singh, had violated its own Community standards (Objectionable Content) and Violence and Criminal Behaviour rules, he was removed from FB. His Fan Pages with 2,19,430 and another with 17,018 followers, however continue to operate and generate provocative content. 

Similar stark examples around the Delhi 2020 targeted violence of Muslims in the capital, Delhi by Ragini Towari (“kill or die” call), Kapil MishraAnjali Verma show that it is the unchecked use of Facebook in non-English languages that is instrumental in the spill and spiral of targeted of violence. Facebook Inc has responded to two complaints sent by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) against hate content made by Ragini Tiwari, stating that they are not in a position to take any action against Tiwari. Instead, Facebook suggested that CJP contact the party directly to get a resolution on the issue. 

Then there is the example of another repeat offender, Deepak Sharma who Facebook is extremely reluctant to disengage with: we developed a detailed profile of his activities and character through Facebook. We complained, brought it up in writing and at round-tables. With thousands of followers he still enjoys space on the platform. 

Yati Narsinghanand: CJP has also been steadily tracking, documenting, reporting and complaining about the man at the centre of the genocidal hate story, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, for years now pointing out the eco-system of hate he has created. During this elaborate process, in November 2018, four years before the genocidal call to kill Muslims was made by him in December 2021, when a CJP member complained about his FB post where he said Hindus should be armed 24X7 to protect their religion and that Islam is cancer, we were told by FB India that this does not go against their community standards but if we have an issue we can either block YATI or unfollow his page. 

In short, we have tried to engage however and whenever given the chance, have had detailed correspondences, attended India Roundtables, have offered more than a dozen and a half of minute case studies and many, more complaints that, have unfortunately resulted in unsatisfactory results. All this work has also been at a risk and cost as the government tracks the critiques and dissenters.

One of the main issues which is a stumbling block despite the FB mega corporation’s own set standards against public safety, hate speech, violence, discrimination, is that Facebook India fails to take cognisance of the local context of supremacist and communally charged politics. Comprehending the difference between hate speech and free speech requires a candid engagement with an understanding of India’s diversity and India’s track record of vicious, targeted communal violence. 

Allowing such hate content on Facebook also legitimises such content that, even courts have –albeit slowly –recognised. 

Facebook’s automated filters which are supposed to filter hate speeches too, falter in India in the non-English languages:

Any user can today search for hate content through a handful of ‘key words’, which Facebook does not filter out. (words or terms like “Kattar Hindu” (rigid or fanatical Hindu)पंचरपुत्रपंचरछापमुल्लेमुल्लाकटुआहलालाहलालाकीऔलादबाबरकीऔलाद which are particular derogatory/slang terms devised simply escape all filters. ( “Panchar”(slang/derogatory term for Muslims who work in automobile garages). 

In fact there are individuals, groups and pages with the ID Kattar Hindu, they have hundreds of thousands of followers. These. can be found on FB, WhatsApp, Twitter.

All of the above, that is terminology allowed un-regulated on these platforms, are violative of Indian Law and Jurisprudence, international law and conventions including the UN’s 2019 Call against Xenophobia and Hate Speech and the 2011 UN Guiding Principle on Business & Human Rights.



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