Activist Harsh Mander came in for a rude shock when the Supreme Court refused to proceed with hearing his petition to file FIRs in hate speech cases, until he clarified if he had made statements against the court.
NDTV reported Chief Justice SA Bobde as saying, “You made statements against the Supreme Court. We will not hear you now… If this is what Harsh Mander feels about the Supreme Court, then we will have to decide on that first.”
Mander had allegedly made the remarks during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in January. A video of the speech had gone viral. But his counsel Karuna Nundy denied the allegations. The court has now sought transcripts of the speech.
Appearing for the government Solicitor General Tushar Mehta dubbed the speech “derogatory and instigating”. He also reminded the court about how former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had dropped Mander’s name in the petition against detention camps in Assam. Mehta also tried to railroad another petition filed by 10 people affected by the Delhi violence. He claimed that senior counsel Colin Gonsalves who had appeared for Mander in Delhi HC, is now appearing for the 10 riot-affected people, alleging that their case was filed at Mander’s behest.
Mander has been a thorn in the regime’s side for many years. He not only spearheaded a petition against the inhuman conditions in Assam’s infamous detention camps, he has also filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to seek directions to the police to file FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma. He is also one of the petitioners against the CAA along with Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Irfan Habib and many others.
The move against Mander is not new, as other human rights defenders often face similar challenges. In January 2011, CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad had faced a similar ordeal when the SC had expressed displeasure over her forwarding complaints pertaining to the Gujarat riot cases to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The court had said that by forwarding the complaints pertaining to Gujarat riot cases to the UN, Teesta Setalvad had shown she does not have confidence in the SC. The matter was put to rest when it was pointed out to the court that the complaints had been sent to the SIT and had merely been forwarded to the OHCHR which keeps track of human rights violations, and that it was mere reporting and there was no prayer for action.