Eight cases in one year: What makes Telangana MLA Raja Singh deliver hate speeches with impunity?

Colin Gonsalves, a Supreme Court senior advocate, claimed that there has been a spurt in hate speeches ever since the BJP-led Union government came to power

ByAjay Tomar

Published Jan 25, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedJan 25, 2024 | 3:24 PM

At least 8 hate speech cases against Hyderabad MLA Raja Singh in last one year but not even a single chargesheet filed

At least eight hate-speech cases in 12 months and not even one charge sheet filed! Meet T Raja Singh, the BJP MLA from Goshamahal in Telangana’s Hyderabad.

The Supreme Court on 17 January took cognisance of Raja Singh’s speeches, and observed that some of them were “certainly objectionable”.

It further asked the authorities to be “conscious that no incitement to violence and hate speech are permissible”. The top court was hearing a case, Shaheen Abdulla vs the Union of India.

The case pertained to Singh’s alleged communally incendiary statements while addressing rallies organised by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Telangana over the past several months.

The latest in the series of cases against Raja Singh was registered on 6 January at Solapur in Maharashtra. Besides the Telangana MLA, a BJP legislator from Maharashtra, too, was arraigned as an accused for delivering hate speeches during a “Hindu Jan Aakrosh” rally in the state.

The Jail Road Police at Solapur booked Singh under IPC sections 153A (creating enmity between two different groups on the grounds of religion) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs).

In the previous year, at least eight cases under the same IPC sections, if not more, were registered against the BJP MLA in Mumbai, Kota (Rajasthan), Hyderabad, and Bengaluru. However, no charge sheet has been filed in any of the cases.

Related: Day after FIR for alleged hate speech, BJP appoints MLA Raja Singh as political in-charge of Hyderabad

Spurt in hate speeches

BJP MLA T Raja is known for his controversial remarks

BJP MLA T Raja is known for his controversial remarks. (Sourced)

Taking note of the cases, the petitioner’s (Abdulla) lawyer, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, argued that lodging FIRs against the BJP MLA was not deterring him from continuing to deliver alleged hate speeches.

“When the event takes place, we come to this court, and an FIR is lodged. But nothing is done. Then, he continues with this kind of speech. What is the point of all this? See the kind of hatred he is propagating,” Sibal submitted before a two-judge bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta

Speaking to South First, Colin Gonsalves, a Supreme Court senior advocate, said that there has been a spurt in hate speeches ever since the BJP-led Union government came to power in 2014.

“Ever since this government came to power, hate speeches have been going up exponentially. This means there is a steep upward curve in hate speeches,” he said. Many of these speeches are being made in BJP-ruled states.

“The Union government protects the wrongdoers. All those engaging in the hate speeches are being protected by the police,” Gonsalves, also the founder of Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), said.

Citing the 2020 Delhi communal riots in which 53 people were reportedly killed, Gonsalves added, “A Cabinet minister was found (on television and videos) raising the slogan, Desh ke gaddaro ko goli maaro saalo (shoot the traitors of the country). The judge who tried to register an FIR against him (Justice Muralidhar, then a judge of the Delhi High Court) was on that evening itself transferred to the Odisha High Court. He was never inducted into the Supreme Court.”

In January 2020, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur was reportedly heard saying, “Desh ke gaddaron ko,” at a rally in Delhi. “Goli maaro saalon ko,” the crowd roared back in unison.

The Delhi High Court in 2022 dismissed a plea filed by CPI(M) leaders against a trial court decision not to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Thakur and Parvesh Verma for hate speeches delivered before the 2020 Delhi riots.

Related: Raja Singh gets bail hours after arrest for comments against Prophet; party suspends him

‘Impotent state’

Goshamahal MLA T Raja Singh

Goshamahal MLA T Raja Singh. (Supplied)

The state of affairs even made a judge call the state impotent. “The state is impotent, the state is powerless. It does not act in time. Why do we have a state if it remains silent?” Justice (now retired) KM Joseph of the Supreme Court asked in March 2023,

The division bench of Justice Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna were hearing a petition, which sought contempt of court proceedings against the Maharashtra government over its alleged failure to act against hate speeches.

The bench directed the states and the Union Territories to register cases on their own against people delivering hate speeches, adding that failing to act would be deemed contempt of court and action would be initiated against the erring officers.

Noting that the police were bound to lodge FIRs and arrest the offenders, Gonsalves said, “Arrest is mandatory because it’s a cognizable offense and it’s a serious offense. However there are very few FIRs registered and fewer prosecutions in hate speech cases. Why? It is because the government itself is engaging in a very heightened level of hate speech.”

While hearing the petition, Justice Nagarathna stressed the implementation of the order.

When South First contacted the Jail Road Police in Solapur regarding the case against Singh, a senior officer said the recordings of the speech that would be considered as evidence had been collected.

“Now our higher authorities will instruct on what to do in the case. Ideally, we will have to go to Hyderabad as well as the MLA’s house (Nitesh Rane) to investigate.”

Related: The controversial leader who has put Telangana BJP in a conundrum

Supreme Court guidelines

Raja Singh addressing a rally

Raja Singh addressing a rally. (Supplied)

In 2014, the Supreme Court laid down a slew of guidelines in the Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar case.

The apex court said the police cannot arrest an accused for offenses carrying a sentence of less than seven years. Adding to it, in its 2021 ruling, the top court said the government would have to prove intent to secure a conviction under Section 153A.

“The intention to cause disorder or incite people to violence is the sine qua non of the offence under Section 153A IPC and the prosecution has to prove the existence of mens rea (criminal intent) to succeed,” the top court reportedly stated.

“Once a case is registered, the police have to take the same course of action as it does with other cases. The police have to decide whether to arrest a person or not,” a senior counsel of the Supreme Court told South First.

Sanketh Yenagi, a Supreme Court lawyer, noted that the degree of hatred in the speech was significant.

“If someone is delivering a hate speech about a community to create a riot and public nuisance, then the arrest can be immediate. So, while registering a case, the police have to keep that in mind as well,” he said.

“In the case of a particular incident, if it amounted to triggering a riot, then IPC 153 is attached,” Yenagi told South First.

Denying that the police were obliged to serve a notice of appearance before it under Section 41 A of the CrPC, he added, “After the registration of the FIR, it has to collect the content of the speech and carry out the investigation. Once the investigation is over, it may proceed to initiate action against the person who has perpetrated the offense.”

Data from the 2022 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed an increase of nearly 30 percent in the number of hate speech cases in 2022. The number of cases, which was 1,047 in 2021, rose to 1,491 in 2022.

The conviction rate in 2020 was 20.2 percent.

Related: Raja Singh booked thrice in 3 days, this time for Godse portrait and Akhand Bharat call

Raja Singh’s incendiary speeches

Addressing a rally in Solapur, which was also attended by leaders of the Sakal Hindu Samaj, Singh said, “Ram Lalla has been seated in Ayodhya, and now we have two more places to cover. We will demolish the illegal structures there and will build temples. The Mathura and the Gyanvapi Mosque (Varanasi) will also be demolished.”

He also urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to take action against the so-called “love jihad” and warned that “or else, we will take the necessary action”.

In October last, the Bengaluru police’s cyber crime department registered a zero FIR against the Goshamahal MLA for his alleged hate speech made at Bhilwara in Rajasthan.

The complaint — by the city-based Law and Policy Research Institute — urged urgent action against Singh’s alleged inflammatory speech vilifying and calling for violence against minorities.

A case was registered under various sections of the IT Act and under the IPC Sections 153A, 153 B, 509 (uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman), 298, and 505(2).

In May 2023, a case was filed against Singh in Rajasthan’s Kota. The complainant accused him of using vocabulary that “disturbed religious harmony.” Based on the complaint, the Kunhadi area police registered a case under Section 153A and Section 298 of the IPC.

The Greater Mumbai police on 30 March last booked him for delivering an allegedly provocative speech at a rally organised by the right-wing outfit Hindu Sakal Samaj in Mumbai on 29 January, 2023. Singh was also booked on 27 February, 2023, by the Shivajinagar police at Latur for a provocative speech under IPC Sections 295-A and 153. He made the controversial speech on 19 February.

A case was also registered against the BJP MLA by Hyderabad police for displaying Nathuram Godse’s picture during the Ram Navami rally on 30 March, 2023, and for speaking about the formation of Akhand Bharat.

Multiple cases under the same sections have been registered against Singh in Hyderabad.