The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on Wednesday a petition seeking cases against politicians who allegedly indulged in hate speech before last week’s violent clashes in North East Delhi, PTI reported. The Delhi High Court had on Thursday deferred a similar matter by four weeks.

The petition was filed by a few of the victims of the violence. On Monday, their advocate Colin Gonsalves told a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde that the High Court should not have deferred the plea by four weeks even when people were still dying. He urged for a hearing on Tuesday.

Before agreeing to hear the plea on Wednesday, the bench told Gonsalves that courts were not equipped to control riots and it was the job of the executive. “We would wish peace but you know that there are limitations,” the bench said.

“We also read newspapers and the comments which are made,” Justice Bobde said. He said media reports suggest that the courts are responsible for everything, News18 reported.

However, Gonsalves argued that the court can prevent the situation from deteriorating, Live Law reported. The bench then posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday.

The toll in the violence, which mainly took place between February 23 and February 26, rose to 46 on Monday after four bodies, including three that were found in drains on Sunday, were brought to Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, ANI reported. The matter is expected to come up in Parliament on Monday.

Delhi High Court hearing

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court began hearing a petition filed by activist Harsh Mander to seek FIRs for hate speech in the wake of violent clashes in Delhi. The plea was first heard by a bench of Justice S Muralidhar since Chief Justice DN Patel was on leave that day. Muralidhar rebuked the police for inaction during the clashes and said the situation would not have escalated if the police had “not allowed instigators to get away”. The bench, which watched videos of some of the provocative remarks, asked police to consider filing cases for hate speech and inform it of its decision the next day.

By Thursday however, Muralidhar had been transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the plea was now heard by a bench led by Chief Justice Patel. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Delhi Police, told the new bench that they had considered filing hate speech FIRs but had decided against it as the time was not right. The High Court then allowed the Centre to become a party in the case and gave it four weeks to respond to the plea. The bench adjourned the matter till April 13.

Hate speech

At the centre of the demand for hate speech cases are at least three instances involving Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. In the run-up to last month’s Delhi elections, Union minister Anurag Thakur had exhorted a crowd at a rally to shout “shoot the traitors” – an apparent reference to those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

An MP, Parvesh Verma, had claimed that Delhi voters must think hard about which party they choose in the elections because “lakhs of protestors” gathering in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality to demonstrate against the Citizenship Amendment Act will enter their homes to “rape their sisters and daughters and kill them”. Just hours before violence broke out in Delhi on February 23, another BJP leader, Kapil Mishra, had warned police that they must clear an anti-CAA protest site in three days. His remarks have been accused by protestors of having been the immediate provocation for the violence.