The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the police in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh to take action in cases of hate speech irrespective of religion of the offenders and without waiting for complaints, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy observed that statements made against minority communities in some recent religious conclaves were shocking, and expressed wonder at what effect religion was having on citizens.

“Where have we reached? What have we reduced religion to? It is tragic,” Justice Joseph said. “And we speak of scientific temper.”

The bench warned that any delay on the part of the administration in taking action will be viewed as contempt of court, according to Live Law.

The bench was hearing a petition seeking to stop the “growing menace of targeting and terrorising the Muslim community of India.” The police forces of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were made parties to the petition.

The petitioner, Shaheen Abdullah, had contented that the Muslim community was being targeted by the members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who have repeatedly made hate speeches.

He also cited speeches made by Hindutva supremacists at a religious conclave in Haridwar and another event in New Delhi in December during which open calls for violence against Muslims were made. Abdullah also mentioned the ‘Sant Sammelan’ in Prayagraj on January 29 where participants had demanded that India be declared a Hindu nation, according to The Quint.

At the previous hearing on Thursday, the court had asked the Union government and states after Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioner, argued for the need for action against those making hate speeches or engaging in hate crimes.

The court, however, had also remarked that the petition was vague and that cognisance could be taken of individual cases where first information reports were filed. Sibal had said that the petition is precise as it had listed several incidents.

At Friday’s hearing, Sibal apprised the court of an event earlier this month where Bharatiya Janata Party MP Parvesh Verma called for the “total boycott” of a community, in remarks apparently aimed at Muslims.

The politician had made the comments at a event called the “Virat Hindu Sabha” organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some other Hindutva organisations to protest against the killing of a man named Manish in Delhi’s Sunder Nagri area on October 1.

Verma had referred to “these people” in his boycott call and did not name a specific community as videos on social media showed.

Justice Roy said that the statements were disturbing for a country that is democratic and neutral religion-wise. “This kind of statement by anyone is condemnable, ” he said, according to Live Law.

In its order, the court observed that there cannot be fraternity unless the members of the different communities live in harmony, reported PTI.

“The petitioner points out that despite various penal provisions, no action has been taken and there is a need to serve constitutional principles,” the court said. “We feel this court is charged with a duty to protect the fundamental rights and also protect and serve the constitution where the rule of law is maintained.”

The petition

In his plea, Abdullah contented that the Muslim community was being targeted by the ruling party members, who have delivered hate speeches on many occasions.

“The spread of hate towards Muslims and other minorities gets accelerated and becomes all the more far-reaching in its impact as a result of the support, directly or indirectly, extended to radical miscreants, who engage in acts of hate crimes, physical violence as well as communally charged speeches by the ruling political party,” the petition said.

Abdullah cited examples of news channel progammes in which Muslims were demonised and examples of speeches calling for genocide and the economic and social boycott of the community. The plea said that no action is taken against individuals or organisations that engage in such hate speech.

“In most cases, minimal action of merely registering FIRs and that too under lesser offences, is the only thing that is done by the authorities which seems to be more of a formality than any genuine initiation of the criminal machinery,” the petition said.