Calcutta & Bombay High Courts allow Ram Navami processions, direct organisers, police to ensure no display of arms or DJs, no breach of law and order Bombay HC also expressed its displeasure over the hate speech delivered by Nitesh Rane in January

16, Apr 2024 | CJP Team

Hearing a plea filed by Anjani Putra Sena to carry out Ram Navami procession on their originally planned route in Howrah, the Calcutta High Court while permitting Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Anjani Putra Sena to carry out their yatras (processions) as per their original routes noted that the organisers will have to ensure that no more than 200 participants will be allowed in the yatras. The single bench order delivered by Justice Jay Sengupta on April 15 also added that VHP and Anjani Putra Sena rallies need to be carried out on separate days, and no disc jockeys or display of weapons will be allowed in the processions, as per the Indian Express report. Furthermore, the High Court directed the state government and organisers to maintain law and order, and asked the former to request for the central forces if needed for this purpose. The order also emphasised that no provocative slogans will be raised by the participants during the yatras.

The plea was filed by the petitioner as the state government had suggested an alternative route for the procession to avoid repetition of violence which had taken place last year during the Ram Navami yatra on the same route, LiveLaw reported

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In another plea filed in the Bombay High Court by Aftab Siddique, (pending for over a month) in which the petitioner was seeking registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) against BJP legislators Nitesh Rane, Geeta Jain and T. Raja for allegedly delivering hate speeches during communal clashes in Mira Road in January, as per LiveLaw. During the hearing of the same petition, the issue of carrying out Ram Navami rally in communally sensitive areas was also taken up for the discussion. The bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and Manjusha Deshpande while granting permission for the rally to be taken out in Mumbai’s Malwani area for Ram Navami celebration directed the police to take all necessary measures to prevent any potential breaches, and take action against speakers and organizers for violating the law, irrespective of political affiliations.

The petitioners had maintained that the rallies were carried out in communally sensitive areas and were stopped just behind the mosques to deliberately provoke them. Allaying the concerns of the petitioners, even as the bench permitted the rally for Ram Navami celebration, it asked the police to change the route and provide alternative options instead. In balancing freedom of expression and association and reasonable restrictions for the purpose of public order, the court noted that “We cannot stop any public rally, but we expect your officers will take appropriate action in accordance with the law if there is any breach, irrespective of political party. If the speaker says something in breach, they (police) can take action.”, Indian Express reported. In addition, it cautioned the police and said, “Ultimately, a law-and-order problem comes, you (police) will face problems.”, LiveLaw reported quoting the bench. In response, counsel for the state, Binrendra Saraf, informed the court that the Commissioners of Police (CPs) will review the speeches made by the speakers and decide within a week whether FIR(s) for hate speech should be lodged.

Additionally, the court expressed its displeasure over the incident in which Nitesh Rane gave a press conference from the Police Commissioner’s office during which he allegedly delivered a hate speech and asked the state to ensure that it is not repeated, as not anyone can hold a meeting with press from the Commissioner’s office. 

Spate of violence due to religious processions

Historically in India, religious processions carried out through communally charged routes have often turned violent and resulted in loss of lives, livelihoods, damage to property, and polarisation of neighbourhoods. Whether it is Ram Navami, Eid, Muharram, Shobha Yatra, or any other any occasion for these religious processions to be taken out, it has been observed that in the absence of close monitoring by the authorities and proper planning of the routes, the possibility of flare up and violence is quite normal. Moreover, this has amounted in the past and present to a breach by both the jurisdictional police and district magistracy of statutory laws and guidelines, we tested and laid down.

Often, these processions at times have caused violence in the areas or themselves have come under attack from neighbourhoods they pass through, especially in cases where such yatras are mobilised by fringe political forces or extremist groups. In addition, these processions, when unregulated, have resulted in political actors and religious leaders delivering hate speeches, brandishing weapons, and inciting violence against members of other communities. Now, with the deployment of loud DJs and music system on the processions, the instances of playing hate songs targeting minorities have also increased. In recent years, these factors have cumulatively contributed to processions turning violent, or being attacked (for example, see here, here, and here).

CJP’s initiative for framing guidelines for the processions

In order to ensure that (religious) processions are carried out in a peaceful and non-violent manner, moreover to ensure that statutory law and guidelines are observed, Citizens for Justice and Peace had moved the apex court through a writ petition to issue definitive guideline and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) governing the processions, including looking at the question of whether or when a procession should be allowed or not.  Though the petition was dismissed citing the jurisdictional issues, it is pertinent to highlight some of its demands.

In a petition that was filed by CJP in May 2022, soon after the violence that erupted in several cities following Shobha Yatra, the organisation prayed for directions from the Supreme Court to pass guidelines, SOPs, and issue directions to the Union and States to strictly implement and follow statutory provisions of law and act on recommendations of several Judicial Commissions of Inquiry that have dealt with the regulation of such religio-political processions (that have thereafter erupted into bouts of communal violence) in the past. The PIL was filed on the principles of secularism, equal protection of law, and protection against violence, which the State is bound to guarantee to all its citizens. The petition relied on a series of judicial precedents, statutory laws, Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), an Advisory by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Punjab Police Guidelines, and reports of Commissions of Inquiry, especially, the report of Justice DP Madon Commission of Inquiry. 

Citing the MHA advisory, issued separately in both 2018 and 2019, CJP highlighted the need to ban arms in the processions. The relevant portion of MHA advisory reads, “It is once again requested to ensure that strict legal actions are taken…against the person(s) indulged in the illegal practices of celebratory firing in marriages, public gatherings, religious places / processions, parties, political rallies etc. so as to curb such incidences. Further, licenses of such perpetrators…to be cancelled in accordance with the law”. 

Similarly, the Punjab Police Guidelines 2018 requires videotaping of the processions and undertaking from the organisers to maintain lawful behaviour and conduct. The guideline notes that the organisers are required to ensure that “no inflammatory speech or any unlawful activity is done at the venue of procession or assembly, which may cause tension in the area or create mutual hatred…amongst different communities, castes, groups, religions etc.”

The petition also referred to the judgement of the apex court in the case of Praveen Togadia v. State of Karnataka (2004) 4 SCC 684, which upheld the administrative order of the state government issued in order to restrict a gathering which could turn violent. 

Finally, CJP’s petition also highlighted the recommendations made in the reports of various Commissions of Inquiry, most importantly, the Justice DP Madon Commission, which was constituted in the aftermath of communal disturbances which took place in Bhiwandi and other places in the State of Maharashtra in May 1970. DP Madon Commission had specifically recommended that processions likely to provoke trouble stand on a special footing and before granting permission for such processions, the police should do a proper assessment of the routes and possible exit and entry points, including the bottles, to ensure that nothing untoward happens during the procession. 

Additionally, while the PIL in this case was dismissed, an Intervention Application (IA) in a separate but related case, related to the Shobha Yatra being unlawfully conducted at Jahangirpuri, Delhi is still pending along with the original petition. This IA also prays for directions from the Supreme Court to pass guidelines, SOPs, and issue directions to the Union and States to strictly implement and follow statutory provisions of law and act on recommendations of several Judicial Commissions of Inquiry that have dealt with the regulation of such religio-political processions (that have thereafter erupted into bouts of communal violence) in the past.

This week, CJP has compiled an easy-to-read Handbook, titled, “Towards a Hate Free Nation” which it has despatched to the police and administrative authorities in 36 districts in Maharashtra to ensure that they implement recent Supreme Court (SC) and Bombay High Court (HC) judgements on how to distinguish controversial speech from hate speech (speech that causes harm). Apart from excerpts and references to the recent judicial precedents, the Handbook also contains references to Circulars issued in 2023 by the Director General of Police (DGP) Maharashtra strictly instructing police stations to ensure preventive measures, investigate and prosecute hate speeches fairly. The Handbook may be accessed here 

As part of its continuing campaign to ensure a hate free neighbourhood and nation, CJP has urged the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) to issue an advisory to all district authorities in light of the scheduled, Ram Navami observed on Wednesday, April 17. 

Image Courtesy:


Ram Navami: Violent Clashes in many states of India 

Majoritarian Politics via Ram Navami Processions and Opportunist Muslim Elites 

Study reveals 668 hate speech cases in 2023, BJP major player



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