The Supreme Court of India on Friday directed the investigating officer (IO) in the December 2021 Delhi Dharam Sansad hate speech case to submit a status report regarding progress of investigation and arrests in the matter. (Tushar Gandhi vs Rakesh Asthana and anr)
A bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud was informed that the first information report (FIR) in the case was registered five months after the incident and that no charges have been framed so far.
Taking this into account, the Court directed the IO to place on record, within two weeks, the steps followed to pursue the investigation.
"We are informed case is relating to serious offence of hate speech. We are told that FIR was filed after 5 months. No probe till now. We are of the view that it will be necessary for the IO to place on record the steps followed to pursue the investigation into incident of 2021 December," the Court said.
The Court was hearing a plea by social activist and Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi against former Delhi Police Chief Rakesh Asthana claiming that the controversial Dharam Sansads were allowed to be held in Delhi in December 2021 in violation of Supreme Court orders.
Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for Gandhi, underlined that although the investigation was underway, no chargesheet has been filed yet. He claimed that only paperwork is being done.
"Please see the mass oath taking which is Nazi style. FIR was not registered for 5 months. Now the reply says investigation is underway and no chargesheet filed or charges framed. I need action against the action and not action against DGP...Similar matter was before Justice Joseph. When they were called, FIR was registered. Only paper work is being done and what kind of society we will devolve into if action is not taken against this," he said.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj said that the petitioner cannot dictate investigation and it will continue at its own pace.
The Court was, however, not impressed.
"The incident was in November 2021 and then FIR was after 5 months. What steps have you taken ? How many arrests have been made? who is the IO," the Court asked.
The ASG said that he will take instructions and find out.
"It has been 7 to 8 months now. What is the progress," the CJI pressed.
"I can file a separate counter. But guidelines have been followed," the ASG maintained.
"But how has it been followed when FIR after 5 months and no action till now," the bench remarked.
"He (petitioner) is saying that," the ASG responded.
The Court then sought a report from the IO within two weeks.
In October 2022, the Supreme Court had, in a plea against hate speech, ordered the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Police to take suo motu action in cases of hate speech without looking at the religion of the offenders.