The Supreme Court was today apprised by the Union of India that among the 28 states and 8 Union territories, only Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland and Gujarat are yet to adhere to the directives laid out by the Apex Court in the case of Tehseen Poonawalla to appoint Nodal Counsels in every district to curb incidents of mob violence and lynching and to procure intelligence reports pertaining to individuals likely to commit such crimes or engage in the dissemination of hate speeches.

The Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice SV Bhatti was considering a batch of Petitions concerning the incidences of Hate Speeches in the Country. The Court had earlier asked the Central Government to file an affidavit indicating compliance with the Apex Court’s directions in Poonawalla's case.

Appearing for the Union of India, Additional Solicitor General K. M. Nataraj informed the Court that 28 States and Union Territories have appointed Nodal officers to devise a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence following hate speech incidents in the country. The States that have filed their responses in compliance with the 2018 judgment are Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, UT of Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

ASG Natraj submitted, "We have filed a status report on behalf of the Union of India on 21.11.2023 and therein we have pointed out that except 4 States other States are saying that they have appointed Nodal Officers." Accordingly, Justice Khanna asked the ASG, "Which are the states that have not appointed nodal officers?"

The ASG replied, "One is Gujarat, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and West Bengal, this is the information we have received. They have also not responded to our letter. Actually, if they have appointed or not, we are not clear because they have not responded to us." ASG also informed that recently, the Home Secretary had convened a meeting with all the concerned stakeholders. "Subsequently, on 11.10.2023, the Home Secretary called a meeting of all States and informed them about the steps to be taken, and asked them to file a compliance report", submitted the ASG.

Further, the counsel appearing for the State of West Bengal clarified that the State has duly adhered to the directions and has appointed the Nodal counsel. Considering this, Justice Khanna remarked, "We will issue notice to the standing/nominated counsels for these states and ask them if any nodal officer has been appointed."

Furthermore, the Court declined to consider the other listed matters in the batch, asserting that it could only proceed once comprehensive information on compliance from all states has been received. "Till we get all the States on Board it will be difficult for us to issue directions. We must first have the information on Nodal counsels. We can't do it in piecemeal", orally observed Justice Khanna.

The Court also clarified that it would not be adjudicating on individual matters related to hate speeches and orally asked the concerned parties to approach the respective High Courts for such issues. The Court specified that its role would be limited to devising a mechanism for the effective implementation of measures in this regard.

The Bench accordingly ordered, "Union of India has filed status report dated 28th November 2023, giving a list of 28 States and Union Territories who have pointed Nodal officers. During the course of the hearing today, the learned Counsel appearing for the State of West Bengal has stated that a Nodal officer has been appointed in the said State. Court notice is issued to the standing counsel for the States of Gujarat, Kerala, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu to indicate whether they have appointed nodal counsels. An affidavit in this regard will be filed within a period of 4 weeks from today."

The Court directed the matte to be listed on February 5, 2024.

Pertinently, the Court in its order dated August 25, 2023, had noted, “the Learned Additional Solicitor General states that the Home Ministry will ascertain and get information from the State Government(s) regarding appointment of the Nodal Officer(s), and status report will be filed within a period of three weeks from today. In case, any State government does not furnish information/ details, the said factum will be stated”

For the background, in the matter of Poonawalla, a bench of the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and the present Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud had pronounced a detailed judgment on the issue. The batch of petitions required a constitutional framework to deal with cow vigilantism and other incidents of lynching or targeted violence and the commission of offences affecting the human body and against private and public property by mobs under the garb of self-assumed and self-appointed protectors of law.

Cause Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union Of India & Ors. and connected matters [W.P.(C) No. 943/2021]