Title

× Close
HATE SPEECH

SC's decision to review old 'Hindutva' judgements could change Indian politics for the better

A seven-judge bench must decide whether Justice Verma’s 1995 rulings on Hindutva have the potential to cause grave harm to secular, democratic politics.

The Supreme Court is likely to soon review a set of controversial rulings, called the Hindutva judgements, that exonerated the Shiv Sena's Bal Thackeray and Manohar Joshi from charges of indulging in hate speech.

The court said on January 30 that a constitution bench must expedite a long-pending case involving hate speech in which the Bharatiya Janata Party's Abhiram Singh has sought to use these Hindutva judgements  in his defence.

In 1996, when Singh's case first came up for hearing in the Supreme Court, a three-judge bench had said that Justice JS Verma’s rulings on Hindutva the previous year had the potential to cause grave harm to secular, democratic politics, and referred the case to a larger, five-judge constitution bench. This bench has now referred the matter to an even larger, seven-judge bench, urging it to expedite the case and review the Hindutva judgements.

This is a hugely welcome, if belated, move because the Hindutva judgements are deeply flawed and have encouraged the further use of hate speech as a vote-getting tactic. This violates Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, which prohibits "corrupt" election practices, including canvassing for votes in the name of religion.

Justice Verma's rulings came in response to cases filed against Bal Thackeray, the founder of the Maharashtra-based nativist Shiv Sena, and his party colleague Manohar Joshi, Maharashtra's chief minister at the time, for violating this section. The petitioner had filed a case against Thackeray for exhorting a Mumbai crowd in November 1987 to vote for a Hindu candidate and to teach Muslims a lesson. "Anybody who stands against the Hindus should be worshipped with shoes," Thackeray had said. "Under every mosque there is a Hindu temple. They should bear in mind that this is a country of Hindus."

Similarly, the petitioner filed a case against Joshi for railing against Muslims to a huge crowd in Shivaji Park in central Mumbai in February 1990 and promising to turn Maharashtra into a Hindu rashtra. "Hinduism is in danger because minorities have raced ahead by cornering all privileges and patronage of the government," Joshi said.

Given that the two politicians used the most direct language that left no room for interpretation, Justice Verma should have held both Thackeray and Joshi guilty for straightforward violations of Section 123 (3). Instead, Justice Verma exonerated them and justified this based on his views about religious texts and tenets. In his rulings, he observed, among other things, that Hindutva was a "state of mind, a way of life" synonymous with Indianisation and did not therefore constitute narrow, fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry. In relation to Manohar Joshi, Justice Verma said that he had not appealed for votes in the name of religion but had only expressed his hopes for the state.

The rulings, delivered in December 1995, suffer from several flaws, but two are particularly glaring. First is the fact that the rulings ignored a Supreme Court judgement handed down five months earlier, in July, ruling that judges should not undertake theological explorations of Hinduism while interpreting Section 123 (3).

Second is the fact that the rulings glossed over the political and historical context in which the two Shiv Sena leaders made their speeches. The BJP's Ram Janmabhoomi movement to demand the construction of a temple in Ayodhya at the site of a 16th century mosque was in full swing, leading up to the party president LK Advani's rath yatra, an election tour on a chariot, in 1990. While setting off, Advani described the tour as a crusade for Hindutva and against "pseudo-secularism".

In 1996, the BJP's Abhiram Singh cited Justice Verma's Hindutva judgements, as they came to be known, to defend himself in the Supreme Court while appealing against a Bombay High Court verdict that had found him guilty of violating Section 123 (3). The High Court had set aside Singh's election to the Maharashtra assembly in 1990, saying that not only had he appealed for votes in the name of Hinduism, but that this appeal had also endangered communal harmony.

The Sangh parivar also gloated about the judgement. "The Supreme Court has fully and unambiguously endorsed the concept of Hindutva which the BJP has been propounding since its inception,” said an editorial in the Organiser, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Samiti’s official publication, in January 1996. The BJP’s 1999 election manifesto lauded the court for finally endorsing “the true meaning and context of Hindutva as being consistent with the definition of secularism.”

But what Justice Verma’s pronouncements did was to destroy the heart of Section 123 (3) and to embolden demagogues to use hate speech to win votes. The most flagrant example was a speech delivered by the BJP's before the 2009 general election in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, in which he was accused of claiming to be the only saviour of Hindus in the country and  swearing on the Gita that he would “cut off the hands that are raised against Hindus". Gandhi was arrested and spent almost three weeks in jail, but he claimed the tapes of his speech were doctored and the court controversially exonerated him four years later.

As the BJP gears up for a bruising 2014 election campaign to have Hindutva icon Narendra Modi elected prime minister, the court's decision could help limit intemperate appeals to voters on the basis of religion.

 

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Making transportation more sustainable even with fuel-based automobiles

These innovations can reduce the pollution caused by vehicles.

According to the WHO’s Ambient Air Pollution Database released in 2016, ten of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gwalior and Ahmedabad occupying the second and third positions. Pollution levels are usually expressed in the levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air. This refers to microscopic matter that is a mixture of smoke, metals, chemicals and dust suspended in the atmosphere that can affect human health. Particulate matter is easily inhaled, and can cause allergies and diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Indian cities have some of the highest levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 particles (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The finer the particulate matter, the deeper into your lungs it can penetrate causing more adverse effects. According to WHO, the safe limits for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Emissions resulting from transportation is regarded as one of the major contributors to pollution levels, especially particulate matter. A study conducted by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science estimated that the transport sector constitutes 32% of Delhi’s emissions. It makes up 43% of Chennai’s emissions, and around 17% of Mumbai’s emissions.

Controlling emissions is a major task for cities and auto companies. The Indian government, to this end, has set emission standards for automobiles called the Bharat Stage emission standard, which mirrors European standards. This emission standard was first instituted in 1991 and has been regularly updated to follow European developments with a time lag of about 5 years. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been the standard in 2010 in 13 major cities. To tackle air pollution that has intensified since then, the Indian government announced that Bharat Stage V norms would be skipped completely, and Stage VI norms would be adopted directly in 2020.

But sustainability in transport requires not only finding techniques to reduce the emissions from public and private transport but also developing components that are environment friendly. Car and auto component manufacturers have begun optimising products to be gentler on the environment and require lesser resources to manufacture, operate and maintain.

There are two important aspects of reducing emissions. The first is designing vehicles to consume less fuel. The second is making the emissions cleaner by reducing the toxic elements.

In auto exteriors, the focus is on developing light-weight but strong composite materials to replace metal. A McKinsey study estimates that plastic and carbon fibre can reduce weight by about 20% and 50% respectively. A lighter body reduces the engine effort and results in better fuel economy. Additionally, fuel efficiency can be increased by reducing the need for air conditioning which puts additional load on the vehicle engine thereby increasing fuel consumption. Automotive coatings (paints) and sheets provide better insulation, keep the vehicle cool and reduce the use of air conditioning.

Most emissions are the result of inefficient engines. Perhaps the most significant innovations in making automobiles and mass transport systems more eco-friendly are being done in the engine. Innovations include products like fuel additives, which improve engine performance, resist corrosion and reduce fuel consumption while offering a great driving experience, and catalytic converters that reduce toxic emissions by converting them to less harmful output such as carbon dioxide, Nitrogen and water. Some of these catalytic converters are now capable of eliminating over 90 percent of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

All of these are significant measures to bring the negative impacts of vehicular pollution under control. With over 2 million vehicles being produced in India in 2015 alone and the moving to BS VI emission standards, constant innovation is imperative.

Beyond this, in commercial as well as passenger vehicles, companies are innovating with components and processes to enable higher resource efficiency. Long-lasting paint coatings, made of eco-friendly materials that need to be refreshed less often are being developed. Companies are also innovating with an integrated coating process that enables carmakers to cut out an entire step of coating without compromising the colour result or the properties of the coating, saving time, materials and energy. Efforts are being made to make the interiors more sustainable. Parts like the instrument panel, dashboard, door side panels, seats, and locks can all be created with material like polyurethane plastic that is not only comfortable, durable and safe but also easily recyclable. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting polyurethane plastic like BASF’s Elastollan® for these very reasons.

From pioneering the development of catalytic converters in 1975 to innovating with integrated process technology for coatings, BASF has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making transport solutions more sustainable. The company has already developed the technology to handle the move of emissions standards from BS IV to BS VI.

For the future, given the expected rise in the adoption of electric cars—an estimated 5~8 percent of car production is expected to be pure electric or plug-in electric vehicles by 2020—BASF is also developing materials that enable electric car batteries to last longer and achieve higher energy density, making electronic mobility more feasible. To learn more about how BASF is making transport more sustainable, see here.

Watch the video to see how automotive designers experimented with cutting edge materials from BASF to create an innovative concept car.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close