Hate Speech: SC Stays Criminal Proceedings against BJP Leader K Annamalai

K Annamalai

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the proceedings in a criminal case filed against Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai for purportedly delivering a hate speech against Christians in an interview with a YouTube channel in October 2022 regarding the bursting of firecrackers.

After reviewing the transcript of the interview statements, a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta remarked, “Prima facie, there is no hate speech. No case is made out.” The bench issued notice to the complainant, who has accused Annamalai of delivering a hate speech against Christians in the October 22, 2022 interview, two days before Diwali.

“In the meanwhile, there shall be a stay on further proceedings before the trial court,” the bench said in its order, scheduling the notice returnable in the week commencing April 29, 2024.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra and advocate Sai Deepak, representing Annamalai, presented the transcript of the interview to the bench, asserting it is not a case of hate speech.

Annamalai has petitioned the top court challenging a Madras High Court decision that refused to quash the summons issued to him in the case. The high court declined to quash the summons on February 8, noting that the psychological impact on an individual or a group must also be considered under the definition of hate speech.

The summons stemmed from a complaint filed by a man named V Piyush. The high court observed that Annamalai had given an interview to a YouTube channel, a clip of which was shared on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s X (then Twitter) handle on October 22, 2022.

The interview content suggested the existence of an internationally-funded Christian missionary NGO allegedly involved in undermining Hindu culture by filing cases in the Supreme Court to prevent Hindus from bursting crackers.

The high court opined that prima facie, the statements revealed a divisive intent on the petitioner’s part to depict the NGO as acting against Hindu culture.

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