The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea challenging the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to not give sanction to prosecute Chief Minister Adityanath in a 2007 hate speech case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of NV Ramana and Justices Hima Kohli and CT Ravikumar pronounced the verdict.

The case against Adityanath, filed by Gorakhpur-based activist Parvez Parwaz, pertains to the events of January 2007 when riots broke out in the city and surrounding areas. On the night of January 26, a group of men allegedly misbehaved with women of a musical troupe and then joined a passing Moharram procession. There was firing on the procession, following which clashes broke out, in which a Hindu man was killed.

The next evening, violating Section 144 that prohibits the assembly of more than four people, Adityanath had delivered a speech outside Gorakhpur railway station. A day later, violence spread beyond Gorakhpur – two people died, and there was extensive damage to homes, shops and vehicles.

Parwaz had first moved the Allahabad High Court in 2007 against Adityanath, who was then a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Gorakhpur.

He alleged that Adityanath had delivered a provocative speech, which led to communal riots in Gorakhpur and surrounding areas. Parwaz and another witness, Asad Hayat, sought an investigation by an independent agency into the violence .

In 2017, the Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government refused to grant permission to the High Court to prosecute the chief minister.

This development came after the court had summoned Chief Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar to explain the delay in prosecuting five people, including Adityanath. Bhatnagar had said that a forensic examination of a CD of the alleged hate speech was found to have been tampered with. The plea was later dismissed by the High Court.

Parwaz had then moved the Supreme Court and challenged the government’s decision not to prosecute Adityanath.

In July 2020, Parwaz was convicted in a two-year-old gangrape case and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Gorakhpur court.

Arguments in the case

Advocate Fuzzail Ayyubi, appearing on behalf of Parwaz, had argued that the Allahabad High Court had not gone into the question of whether the state can pass an order under Section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in respect to a proposed accused in a criminal case, who in the meantime gets elected as the chief minister and is the executive head as per the scheme provided under Article 163.

Section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure says that no court shall take cognisance of an offence under Section 153A (spreading communal disharmony) or 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code except with the sanction of the central or the state government.

“The question that thus arose was whether the chief minister [Adityanath], as an executive head, could participate in the sanction process,” Ayyubi had said, according to Live Law.

Ayyubi argued the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory had examined the CD of Adityanath’s speech and the investigation by the Crime Branch had found a prima facie offence, The Indian Express reported.

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state of Uttar Pradesh, had said that CD in question was tampered with by the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory.