'Impact Of Popular Leaders' Speech Should Not Be Confined To Testing For Immediate Physical Harm': Madras HC Refuses To Quash Case Against BJP's Annamalai
The Madras High Court emphasized that the psychological impact of a statement made by a popular leader must not be merely confined by testing it only to immediate physical harm, and it is the duty of the Court to see if it has caused silent harm in the psyche of the targeted group.
Refusing to quash the criminal proceedings against BJP State Head K Annamalai, the Bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that, "From the speech of the petitioner, it is unmistakable that he was attempting to portray a calculated attempt made by a Christian Missionary NGO, which is funded internationally, to destroy Hindu culture. It also whips up a communal fervour when he says “we are all running to the Supreme Court to counter this” The public was, therefore, led to believe that Christians are out to finish off Hindu’s and that “we” (in this context Hindus) were running to the Supreme Court to defend it. A petition filed in the interests of the environment was suddenly converted into a vehicle for communal tension."
It was held that, "It is clear from the above discussion that there exists a prima facie intent to create hatred towards a particular religion. These statements were made by a person of stature, whose words have a lot of impact on the masses and as a result, they, prima facie, have a psychological impact on the targeted group."
With that background, the Court stressed that, "the psychological impact of a statement made by a popular leader must not be merely confined by testing it only to immediate physical harm and it is the duty of the Court to see if it has caused a silent harm in the psych of the targeted group, which, at a later point of time, will have their desired effect in terms of violence or even resulting in genocide. Therefore, the non-physical impact of the statements made will also come within the scope of Section 153A of the IPC."
Counsel CV Shyam Sundar appeared for the petitioner, while Counsel V Suresh appeared for the respondent.
In a YouTube interview, Annamalai had stated that it was a Christian Missionary NGO which had approached the Apex Court to seek a ban on firecrackers.
After video clippings of the interview were shared on social media, the respondent, Piyush, filed a complaint with the DGP, Home Secretary, and the Commissioner of Police, Salem. He expressed concerns that the post could incite hatred between two communities. However, he was informed that the interview did not constitute a breach of public peace, and no prima facie case was established.
Subsequently, Piyush invoked Section 156(3) and 200 of the CrPC before the Salem Judicial Magistrate. The Magistrate found a prima facie case under Section 153A and Section 505(1)(b) of the IPC and issued summons to Annamalai. Annamalai challenged the summons and the entire proceedings, contending that his speeches were expressions of anguish. He pointed out that the interview was conducted in 2022, and the complaint was filed about 400 days later, with no untoward incidents occurring during this period based on the speech.
Piyush argued that Annamalai's speech was a dog whistle, conveying a political message in a particular manner understood by a specific demographic. He asserted that necessary state sanction had been obtained, and the Magistrate's detailed order, while taking cognizance, demonstrated a thoughtful application of mind, warranting no interference.
The Court observed that to make out an offence under Section 153A of the IPC, the Court has to take note of Clauses (a) and (b) to Sub-Section (1). There must be words, which are either spoken or written and they must promote or attempt to promote on the ground of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity or hatred or ill-will between different religious groups or communities and that are likely to disturb the public tranquillity. With that background, it was held that, "The contents of the submissions made by the learned counsel for the petitioner prima facie satisfy every one of the ingredients mentioned".
Resultantly, the petition was dismissed.
Petitioner: Counsel CV Shaym Sundar
Respondents: V Suresh
Cause Title: K Annamalai vs V Piyush