Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking FIR against PM Modi over alleged hate speech in poll campaign


The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a plea seeking registration of a first information report against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his alleged hate speech targeting Muslims during the Lok Sabha elections campaign, PTI reported.

Justice Sachin Datta said that the petition was “misconceived” and devoid of merit. The court said that the matter is pending with the Election Commission, which will take an independent view on the complaint as per the law.

The court said that it cannot be presumed that the poll panel, which is still considering the matter, will not act on the complaints, Bar and Bench reported.

The petition objected to a speech made by Modi on April 21 in Rajasthan’s Banswara, when he first claimed that the Congress plans to distribute citizens’ private wealth among “infiltrators” and “those who have more children” if voted to power, a dog-whistle reference to Muslims.

Modi was purportedly referring to remarks that Congress leader Manmohan Singh had made on December 9, 2006, in an address to the National Development Council. Singh, the prime minister at the time, had said that the country’s priorities were to uplift the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities, and women and children.

The petition had also cited Modi’s speech at Sagar in Madhya Pradesh on April 24 where he claimed that the Congress had provided reservations to Muslims on religious basis.

In 1962, the Congress government in Karnataka had included certain castes of Muslim communities in the Other Backward Classes list, not on the basis of religion, but on the basis of social and economic backwardness. It was the government of the Janata Dal (Secular) – now a BJP ally – that had extended the quotas to all Muslim communities in 1994.

Karnataka is just one of 14 states and Union territories where Muslim communities are included in the Other Backward Classes list. This includes Gujarat, where Modi was chief minister.

Also read: Fact-checking five days of Narendra Modi’s speeches: A catalogue of lies

The plea contended that despite complaints against Modi over alleged hate speech, the poll panel has not taken action.

The petitioners added that the Election Commission had issued notices to several politicians such as Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekar Rao, Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dilip Ghosh, but no such action has been taken against Modi. Even the notice issued by the poll panel in connection with the prime minister’s speech was sent to the BJP chief JP Nadda, not to Modi, the plea said.

Besides Modi, the plea sought action against alleged communal speeches made by BJP leaders Nadda and Anurag Thakur, reported Bar and Bench.

The advocate representing the petitioners had told the court earlier that the actions of the Election Commission cannot vary depending on the person indulging in hate speech. “The response has to be uniform [for everyone],” he said.

In response, advocate Suruchi Suri, representing the Election Commission, submitted that the BJP’s reply to its notice is expected by May 15 and that action would be taken after that in accordance with the law, Bar and Bench had reported.

On Friday, Datta had observed verbally that the court “cannot micromanage” the functioning of the Election Commission as the regulatory authority is a constitutional body.

“Who is to decide that there has been violation of the Model Code of Conduct?” Datta had asked. “ECI [Election Commission] is a constitutional body, we cannot micromanage it.”

The Model Code of Conduct is a set of rules issued by the Election Commission that all political parties, candidates and governments are mandated to follow during an election campaign. The code sets guardrails for speech.


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