A man accused in the Jantar Mantar anti-Muslim sloganeering case has been denied anticipatory bail by a Delhi Court, which observed that he cannot absolve himself of all responsibility for the “inflammatory and incendiary” content in the speeches allegedly made during the event. [State v. Preet Singh]
In the course of its order, the Court acknowledged that the right to assemble and the freedom to air one's thoughts were cherished under the Constitution of India. However, it emphasised that such rights were not absolute. The court said that They are to be exercised with inherent reasonable restrictions. It is apposite to mention that the applicant (Singh) not only voluntarily organised the event but also actively participated and provided support to the views and contents of inflammatory speeches, which were being made by the participants / accused persons at that time, by acknowledging and endorsing via gestures and clapping intermittently.
In this case, Additional Sessions Judge Anil Antil further found that, on prima facie analysis of the inflammatory and incendiary content of the speeches or interviews of the participant's members of the event, comments especially those pertaining in express pejorative references to a religious community, and keeping in view that the applicant was an active organiser of the event, he cannot later absolve himself of the responsibility of the content or consequences arising therefrom.”
The Judge was of the view that the complicity of the applicant, namely, Preet Singh, in the alleged offences was “prima facie evident” from the material placed before the Court.
the Court further opined that Singh's contention that the essential ingredients of the offence under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion etc.) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) are not made out was totally unconvincing.
The Court also underscored that Singh was expected to act more responsibly in the matter. It was expected that he ought to have exercised his authority, in these circumstances, and prevented participants from airing such inflammatory opinions in the larger interest of the public/committee welfare. On the other hand, the applicant is clearly seen actively participating in the incendiary speeches along with his other associates.
Singh has been booked for various offences including, promoting enmity between different groups and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code, and the Epidemic Diseases Act. He was allegedly part of a rally that took place on August 8 in Delhi under the Bharat Jodo Movement against colonial-era laws in the country where anti-Muslim slogans were said to be raised.
The rally was organised by former BJP spokesperson and Supreme Court lawyer, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
Singh, his Counsel Azad Singh argued, had gone to the event only to inform the supporters not to gather as there was no permission and the event had been cancelled. It was also argued that Singh did not intend to cause harm to any person, public, any property concerning individual and government and spread any kind of hatred or enmity between the community and public. The authenticity of the alleged video clipping and transcript was challenged as well by Singh's counsel, who said that its veracity could only be tested during the trial, which was far away considering the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
Additional Public Prosecutor S K Kain opposed the bail plea, arguing it appeared that the hateful slogans were passed against a particular religion by Singh along with other co-accused. It was also pointed out that Singh was the president of the Save India Foundation and the co-organiser of the event where “inflammatory” sloganeering took place and “hate speech” was delivered.
The Court recorded the prosecutor’s submission in the bail order, which stated that people belonging to various outfits had gathered in huge numbers and that seeing this opportunity, Singh with his associates “conspired to use the platform to create communal disharmony” and “give communal colours to their plants”.The court was told that they persuade the youth to propagate against a particular community, despite the sanction to gather refused by the competent authority.
The Court opined that prima facie, on the basis of the material on record and the prosecution’s submissions, there was active participation by Singh in his individual capacity and also as the main organiser of the event itself, which was conducted at Jantar Mantar in spite of the denial of permission by the Delhi Police and total disregard to Covid19 protocol issued by the Government of India.
The Court found Singh to be an active main organiser of the event and an "influential personality." As such, the Judge also opined that there was a possibility of him interfering with the investigation and/or influencing the witnesses. The court concluded that it is a premature stage to enlarge the applicant/accused Preet Singh on bail at this conjuncture,