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Supreme Court On Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Plea To Club Criminal Cases on ‘Sanatana Dharma’ Row Cites: “Minister Can’t Be Equated To Media Persons”

Supreme Court Differentiates Minister from Media in Udhayanidhi Stalin’s ‘Sanatana Dharma’ Controversy

The Supreme Court, while hearing Tamil Nadu Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin request to consolidate criminal cases filed against him due to his controversial remarks on ‘Sanatana Dharma’, emphasized the distinction between a minister and a media person.

The bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta advised Stalin’s lawyer, Sr Adv Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, to explore the possibility of seeking relief under Section 406 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) instead of Article 32 of the Constitution for merging the cases.

During the hearing, Justice Datta highlighted three crucial points. Firstly, he noted that in some cases against Stalin, judicial proceedings had already begun, making them ineligible for intervention under Article 32. Given this, Justice Datta questioned Singhvi, Why opt for Article 32?

Secondly, Justice Datta pointed out that Stalin could not use Article 32 to evade voluntarily assumed obligations. He remarked, “You have made the speech, and we are unaware if it was public or not… but now that summons have been issued, you cannot approach us through Article 32.”

Lastly, Justice Datta emphasized that most of the precedents cited by Stalin were filed by media professionals who work under specific directives and cannot be equated with ministers.

In his defense, Singhvi argued that Section 406 CrPC did not apply to criminal cases. However, Justice Datta cited the case of the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput, where the Supreme Court had transferred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under Section 406 CrPC.

Singhvi contested this by claiming that Rajput’s case also fell under Article 32. Justice Datta then asked the Senior Counsel to verify this, as he recalled that Justice Hrishikesh Roy had issued the order in the case as a Single Judge, which would not be possible if the case was under Article 32.

Regarding Stalin’s references to the cases of Nupur Sharma and Mohammad Zubair, Justice Datta reiterated that Zubair was a media person, being the co-founder of ALT news. When Singhvi mentioned Nupur Sharma, Justice Datta humorously remarked, “Maybe a political leader, but not as significant as your client.”

Singhvi also clarified that Stalin’s intention behind the remarks was not to provoke a political confrontation. He said, “It was a private gathering of 20, 40, 50 people, not a public rally.”

However, Justice Khanna redirected the discussion towards the primary issue of consolidating the FIRs. The bench scheduled the next hearing for the week commencing May 6 to allow Stalin and his legal team to revise the petition and address the legal concerns.

Background

Udhayanidhi Stalin, a prominent DMK leader and the son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, came under scrutiny in September last year for his comments comparing ‘Sanatana Dharma’ to diseases like ‘malaria’ and ‘dengue’. He advocated for its eradication, claiming it was deeply rooted in the caste system and historical discrimination. This sparked a significant political controversy and led to multiple criminal complaints against Udhayanidhi, as well as petitions filed in the Supreme Court seeking action against him.

The Supreme Court issued notices in response to one of the petitions, seeking a response from the State of Tamil Nadu and the beleaguered minister. Shortly after, another petition requesting criminal action against Udhayanidhi was taken up by the same bench. Tamil Nadu Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari expressed concerns about the influx of public interest litigations (PILs) filed over Udhayanidhi’s recent remarks.

In response to the law officer’s concerns about the proliferation of cases, Justice Bose assured, “We are not issuing notice, but tagging this with the other one. We will examine the question of entertaining it on the next day.”

In October, Justice Bose’s bench consolidated another petition concerning the Tamil Nadu minister’s remarks on ‘Sanatana Dharma’ with the two existing pleas.

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