T.N. sanctions prosecution of Annamalai for hate speech

The Tamil Nadu government has accorded sanction to prosecute BJP State president K. Annamalai for his “hate speech” against a “Christian Missionary NGO”, based on a legal opinion from the State Public Prosecutor (SPP) of the Madras High Court.

According to a government order (G.O.), the legal opinion was sought based on a petition filed by an activist, V. Piyush, in the Judicial Magistrate Court No. 4 of Salem and petitions that were sent by him to Home Secretary, Director-General of Police, and Commissioner of Police (Salem) last year against Mr. Annamalai and Rajavel Nagarajan from the YouTube channel Pesu Thamizha Pesu.

Mr. Piyush, a resident of Salem, told The Hindu that his petition was based on an interview, which Mr. Annamalai had given to the YouTube channel, in which the BJP leader had reportedly made unsubstantiated claims that Christian missionaries were behind the case that led to Supreme Court imposing restrictions on bursting of firecrackers during Deepavali.

Mr. Annamalai had painted a picture of the missionaries as though they were conspiring to attack the Hindu festival, Mr. Piyush contended.

Citing the SPP’s opinion, the G.O., issued by the Public Department, said Mr. Annamalai had “intentionally, and out of context uttered remarks regarding a Christian Missionary NGO, which forced the Missionary to file a petition before the Supreme Court”. Moreover, the SPP had said that Mr. Annamalai’s speech involved “open use of words and phrases that are generally considered to be offensive to a particular religion and objectively offensive to society”.

The G.O., dated October 18, 2023, said Mr. Annamalai’s speech fell within the ambit of the definition of hate speech, as laid down by the Supreme Court in the Amish Devgan vs Union of India and others case in 2021. Therefore, it was evident that his speech had the “sole intention to cause fear or alarm” and create hatred between religions, it added.

It further said that the SPP had pointed out that this was a “fit case for prosecution” as per the Supreme Court ruling in the Shaheen Abdulla vs Union of India and others case in 2022, in which States were asked to take suo motu action for hate speech even if no complaints were made.

The G.O. said, based on the opinion of the SPP, the government was satisfied that “hate speech” was delivered by Mr. Annamalai with the intention of promoting disharmony and feelings of enmity and hatred between religious groups, and disturbing public tranquillity.

Hence, sanction had been accorded based on the order of the Governor to prosecute Mr. Annamalai for offences punishable under sections 153-A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, to be taken cognisance of by a court of competent jurisdiction.

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