Bombay HC Orders Review of Alleged Hate Speeches by BJP MLAs and Telangana Legislator

Bombay HC directs Mumbai and MBVV police commissioners to review hate speech allegations against BJP MLAs and Telangana legislator. FIR status pending.

The Bombay High Court has directed the commissioners of police of Mumbai and Mira-Bhayandar, Vasai-Virar (MBVV) to personally review alleged hate speeches by BJP MLAs Nitish Rane and Geeta Jain, and Telangana legislator T Raja Singh. The court is awaiting information on whether FIRs would be registered against them.

The court heard petitions filed by five Mumbai residents seeking criminal cases against Rane, Jain, and Singh for alleged hate speeches in Mira Road during communal unrest in January 2024. The petitioners, including two violence victims, cited the absence of FIRs filed by the police against the three leaders.

According to the petition, violence erupted in a minority-dominated locality in Mira Road on January 21, 2024, spreading across the town. Rane and Jain allegedly delivered speeches openly threatening the minority community during this period, while Singh reportedly gave an incendiary speech during a rally on February 25.

The petition also claimed Rane delivered more hate speeches in other Mumbai suburbs like Govandi and Malvani. Despite citizens’ requests, local police allegedly failed to act and register FIRs against the MLAs.

During the hearing, Chief Public Prosecutor Hiten Venegavkar informed the court that no FIR was filed due to insufficient material to constitute hate speech. He emphasized that merely referring to a community doesn't amount to hate speech.

The bench, comprising Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Manjusha Deshpande, acknowledged the importance of freedom of speech but stressed it "comes with some restrictions."

The petitioners, represented by senior advocate Gayatri Singh, advocate Vijay Hiremath, and advocate Hamza Lakdawala, reiterated allegations that Singh specifically targeted minorities during his February 25 speech. They urged the court to prevent any untoward incident at an upcoming event on April 17, coinciding with Ram Navami.

Consequently, the court directed the police to ensure no communal disharmony occurs on April 17 and criticized the police for being 'mute spectators,' waiting for crimes to be committed before filing FIRs.

In response, Venegavkar assured the court of providing necessary protection and taking action in case of hate speech.

The court also expressed concern over Rane using the press room and the office of the commissioner of police, MBVV, on January 23 to deliver hate speeches. It emphasized the importance of timely action against law violators to maintain citizens' faith in the police.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 15, awaiting updates on the review of hate speech recordings and transcripts by the police commissioners.