The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking criminal cases against Union minister Anurag Thakur and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Parvesh Verma for their alleged hate speech, The Indian Express reported.

At a rally in January 2020, Thakur was heard shouting “desh ke gaddaron ko” and the crowd responded with “goli maaro saalon ko”. The slogan meant “shoot the traitors”, with an expletive used for “traitors” being a reference to those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Parvesh Verma, in his speech, had told an audience that the “lakhs of protestors” who had gathered at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh would enter their homes to “rape their sisters and daughters and kill them”.

The speeches were made ahead of the 2020 Delhi Assembly elections. Soon after, riots had broken out in North East Delhi in February, in which 53 people died and hundreds were injured. The majority of those killed were Muslims.

The petition against the BJP leaders was filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders Brinda Karat and KM Tiwari. The court had reserved its verdict on March 25.

In his order on Monday, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh upheld the verdict of a magistrate and said that the petitioners had not followed the prescribed mechanism under the Code of Criminal Procedure for seeking registration of an first information report in such cases, according to Live Law.

The court held that sanction from the government was required for filing an FIR in the matter.

Karat and Tiwari had sought an FIR under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153B (imputations prejudicial to national integration), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 298 (uttering words with intent to hurt religious feelings), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), 505 (public mischief) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that prior sanction from the Centre or state government is required for the prosecution of offences under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code.

The petitioners contended that this sanction was not required at the stage of the registration of an FIR.

“Any application for sanction by the complainant at this stage would be without the benefit of materials and evidence obtained during investigation,” the petition stated. The court, however, did not accept this argument.

Justice Singh, while reserving his order on March 25, had questioned whether criminality could be read into remarks that were made “with a smile”.

He had also said that the use of term “ye log” (these people) in the speeches could be anybody and that the term did not refer to any particular community.