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Supreme Court Issues Notice to Udhayanidhi Stalin Over Controversial Remarks on ‘Sanatan Dharma’

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The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Tamil Nadu government and Udhayanidhi Stalin, the state minister for youth welfare and sports development, following a petition seeking the registration of an FIR against Udhayanidhi for his comments earlier this month, stating that ‘Sanatan Dharma’ was against the idea of social justice and must be eradicated.

A bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi noted that the petitioner had the option to approach the jurisdictional high court as a first step. The bench questioned the petitioner’s choice to file directly with the Supreme Court, remarking that the high court was equally competent to address the matter.

The petitioner’s senior lawyer argued that a batch of hate speech-related matters was pending before the Supreme Court. He emphasized that when the state itself encourages speech against a particular religion, the Supreme Court becomes the only recourse. He referred to a recent circular issued by state authorities, indicating that children would be encouraged to speak against Sanatan Dharma.

The senior counsel contended that this case involved a constitutional authority stirring up religious sentiments, thus necessitating the intervention of the apex court.

Initially hesitant to entertain the petition filed by B Jagannath, a lawyer practicing in the Madras high court, the bench eventually agreed to admit the plea and issue notices. Other 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.

During a conference organized in Chennai on September 2 by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Artists Association, Udhayanidhi asserted that Sanatana was contrary to the concept of social justice and needed to be eradicated. Despite generating significant political controversy, with numerous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders criticizing Udhayanidhi for his remarks, the minister reaffirmed his stance and expressed readiness to face any legal challenges.

On September 7, Tamil Nadu CM defended his son’s statements, asserting that they were directed at principles discriminating against Scheduled Castes, tribals, and women.

Jagannath’s petition in the top court alleged that the September 2 conference aimed to incite the eradication of a specific religion and target Hinduism, also referred to as ‘Sanatan Dharma’. He contended that this constituted a textbook case of hate speech and sought action against Udhayanidhi for propagating such hatred against Hindus. The plea emphasized that failure to file an FIR against Udhayanidhi and the conference organizers would demonstrate bias, favoritism, and discrimination against Hindus in the state.

The petitioner noted that a 2018 Supreme Court judgment mandated the appointment of a nodal officer to combat hate speeches and register FIRs when warranted. However, the Tamil Nadu government has yet to comply with this court order. Additionally, there are at least two more pending pleas before different benches of the Supreme Court seeking action against the DMK minister. One of these applications is before a bench monitoring compliance with the guidelines outlined in the 2018 judgment in the Tehseen Poonawala Case, which provided extensive directives and preventive measures to curb instances of mob lynching and hate speeches.

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