A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli asked the chief secretaries of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and UP to provide details of action taken by police on the alleged incidents within two months to the Union ministry of home affairs, which would tabulate the data and place it before the court.
The bench clarified that this exercise is meant to enable the court to take a decision whether the guidelines laid down by the SC in the Tehseen Poonawala case, relating to the establishment of a mechanism to deal with hate-speech mongers, could be applied to cases of communal violence against religious groups. “The court has not formed any opinion on the veracity of the allegations made in the PIL,” it said.
In the Poonawala case on July 17, 2018, the SC had laid down a detailed framework containing a 12-point preventive guideline, nine-point remedial guideline and two-point punitive guidelines.
Appearing for petitioners archbishop Peter Machod, National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said there is a definite pattern of targeted violence against churches in almost all states resulting in police disrupting the prayer gatherings.
He said there were a large number of such incidents across India last year in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Pondicherry, Rajasthan and Telangana. Alarmingly, 510 pastors were arrested while only 70-odd perpetrators were taken into custody by police, he alleged.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said, “There appears to be some hidden oblique agenda in filing such deceptive petitions, to create unrest throughout the country and perhaps for getting assistance from outside the country to meddle with internal affairs of our nation.”
“A preliminary fact-check of the mentioned incidents and the inputs received thereof revealed that about 162 incidents were not truthfully recorded and remaining 139 were either false or deliberately projected wrongfully as instances of targeted violence against Christians,” he added.
Drawing the court’s attention to the recent trend of sending self-serving fact-finding teams, getting their reports published in some tabloids and then making these reports the base for filing PILs, Mehta said the present petition has relied on a self-serving report titled ‘Hate and Targeted Violence Against Christians in India, 2021’ of the ‘Evangelical Fellowship of India-Religious Liberty Commission (EFI-RLC)’, highlighting incidents of violence against Christians and their properties.