News has emerged that the Supreme Court has requested responses from both the Tamil Nadu government and Udhayanidhi Stalin, the state’s minister for youth welfare and sports development, in relation to a petition which calls for the registration of an FIR against Udhayanidhi following his controversial comments made earlier this month. These comments suggested that ‘Sanatan Dharma’ opposes the concept of social justice and should be eradicated.
Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela M Trivedi sent notices to both parties, but also pointed out that the petitioner could have approached the jurisdictional high court first. Despite this, the senior lawyer representing the petitioner highlighted that a number of hate speech-related matters were currently pending before the Supreme Court. The lawyer further explained that the Supreme Court was the only remedy when the state itself was inciting a tirade against a specific religion and forcing children to speak against it.
The petition, filed by B Jagannath, a lawyer practising in the Madras high court, was initially not looked upon favourably by the bench. However, they finally agreed to admit the plea and issue notices. Respondents named in the petition include Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Charitable Endowment Minister Sekar Babu, Lok Sabha member of Parliament A Raja, DMK President Veeramani K Veeramani and Chairman of Tamil Nadu State Minorities Commission Peter Alphonse.
Udhayanidhi’s controversial statements were made at a conference organised by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Artists Association on September 2. His comments ignited a political firestorm, with numerous BJP leaders criticising him. Despite this, Udhayanidhi later stated he stood by his words and was ready to face any legal challenge.
On September 7, the Tamil Nadu CM defended his cabinet colleague and son’s statements, arguing they were aimed at principles that discriminate against Scheduled Castes, tribals, and women. Jagannath’s petition contends that the conference’s purpose was to incite the eradication of a specific religion and target Hinduism, also known as ‘Sanatan Dharma’.
Jagannath claims this is a clear case of hate speech and demands action against Udhayanidhi for fostering and expressing such hatred against Hindus. The petition further states that if no FIR is filed against Udhayanidhi and the conference organisers, it indicates bias, favouritism and discrimination against Hindus in the state.
The petitioner also pointed out that the Tamil Nadu government has yet to comply with a 2018 Supreme Court ruling which mandated the appointment of a nodal officer to combat hate speeches and file FIRs where necessary. Currently, there are at least two more pleas pending before different Supreme Court benches for action against the DMK minister. One of these applications is pending before a bench which is monitoring the steps taken by the Centre and the states to comply with the guidelines set out in its 2018 judgment in the Tehseen Poonawala Case. This judgment provided extensive guidelines and preventative steps to be taken by states to curb instances of mob lynching and hate speeches.