Home Blog 101 cases, just 1 conviction: How BJP’s Raja Singh keeps getting away

101 cases, just 1 conviction: How BJP’s Raja Singh keeps getting away

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Paul Oommen 

While the Hyderabad police stated that BJP MLA Raja Singh has 101 cases against him, out of which 18 are communal in nature, the fact is that so far he has not yet been convicted in a single hate speech case.

In 2016, Mohammed Irfan Quadri, a Hyderabad-based social activist-turned-politician filed a complaint against BJP MLA from Goshamahal Raja Singh. Quadri’s complaint to the police was about the vitriolic videos of Raja Singh in general; however, he mentioned three videos as examples in his complaint. In one speech, Raja Singh warned Muslims against slaughtering cows, and threatened that if they continued to, they would be slaughtered in the same way. Five years later, on December 17, 2021, Raja Singh was acquitted by a Special Court that specifically examines cases against lawmakers in the state. The court had two reasons to acquit Raja Singh — firstly, the police had skipped a procedure that required recording the material evidence properly; and the more serious reason — the police did not ask for sanction from the government to prosecute the MLA before or after filing the chargesheet. To prosecute an elected representative in certain cases, a sanction is needed from the government concerned.

This is just one of the 101 criminal cases registered against Thakur Raja Singh Lodh, popularly known as T Raja Singh, who is a habitual offender when it comes to communal hate speech against Muslims. Raja Singh has been convicted in just one single case till date. In fact, he has been acquitted in a majority of the hate speech cases booked against him. And the way he escapes conviction is usually on ‘technical grounds’. So does the MLA simply have a shrewd legal team, or is there a lack of will from the state government led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) when it comes to ensuring Raja Singh gets convicted?

Over the years, the TRS government has managed to build an image for itself that it cracks down hard on communal forces. There are multiple instances wherein the TRS government openly resisted the BJP and Hindutva. The most recent example is that of granting permission to comedian Munawar Faruqui’s show, despite the BJP vehemently opposing it, and BJP MLA Raja Singh threatening to set the auditorium on fire.

An earlier example is from March 2021. After communal clashes broke out in Telangana’s communally sensitive Bhainsa town in Nirmal district, the Telangana police immediately cracked down and arrested 38 people, mainly from Hindu Vahini, a right-wing Hindutva group.

The TRS government with the help of the Telangana police has also managed to drastically reduce communal clashes in the state. According to data from the Telangana police, it was in 2012 that Hyderabad last imposed a curfew due to a tense situation after communal clashes were reported in Madannapet and Saidabad following the desecration of a Hanuman Temple.

While the above examples indicate the political will of the TRS to crack down on communal clashes and violence in general, when it comes to getting vitriolic legislators punished, they don’t go the last mile, allege activists.

The crimes of Raja Singh

From referring to old Hyderabad as a mini-Pakistan to calling Rohingya Muslims ‘terrorists who should be shot’, to calling for the burning down of theatres that screened the Bollywood film Padmaavat in 2018, Raja Singh makes the news under the ‘controversy’ tagline often. His most recent controversy was when he warned comedian Munawar Faruqui against coming to Hyderabad to perform his stand-up act. Singh also stoked angry agitations and protests over his remarks against Prophet Mohammed.

Following widespread protests, on August 25, 2022 Singh became the first public representative to be booked under the Preventive Detention (PD) Act by the Hyderabad Police. The 45-year-old Goshamahal legislator was then detained under Act no 1 of 1986 on the same day, and was sent to the Cherlapally Central Prison.

But for years before this arrest, Mohammed Irfan Quadri tried to put a stop to the Raja Singh hate train, but was met by police apathy in a state where a non-BJP party is in power. Quadri filed a case in 2016 against three speeches by Raja Singh, uploaded to YouTube on July 9, 2015, December 28, 2015 and February 15, 2016 respectively. Following the complaint, a case was registered under 295A IPC. For nearly five years, Quadri followed up several times with the police. He was often kept in the dark about updates in his case.

India has hate speech laws to prevent discord among religious communities. The law allows a citizen to seek punishment for anyone who creates social discord “on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language or caste.” India prohibits hate speech by several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and by other laws which put reasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression. A person indulging in hate speech is usually booked under section 153A or 295A of the IPC. The BJP legislator has several cases booked against him under these two sections.

“But it is clear that the police only file cases, and then hardly follow up to bring them to a logical conclusion,” Quadri tells TNM. “The judgment said that they didn’t get the required permission to prosecute Raja Singh. During the trial, I was threatened several times to withdraw the case. I was also offered Rs 25 lakh to withdraw the case. My family was worried about our safety as the case was against an influential man. Clearly, the TRS State government doesn’t want to prosecute Raja Singh,” he says.

Under section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), “No Court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under Chapter VI or under section 153A of Indian Penal Code or  Section 295A or sub section (1) of section 505 of the Indian Penal Code…except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or of the State Government.” Section 153A refers to ‘Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence’; and 295A refers to ‘Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’.

In many of the cases against Raja Singh — which tend to fall under these sections — the police have either not sought permission from the state government, or they haven’t received the requisite sanctions.

Amjad Ullah Khan, spokesperson for the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT), has filed 19 cases against Raja Singh mostly for hate speech. He says 15 cases were closed citing a lack of evidence. “Despite submitting the required video evidence and other details, the cases were closed. I wasn’t even intimated about the case being closed. It was after years that I found out that the cases were closed.”

Getting Raja Singh acquitted, one case after another

Advocate K Karuna Sagar is the man who represents Raja Singh in all his cases. When TNM met Sagar, he first handed over a sheet of all cases in which he represented Raja Singh in which he was eventually acquitted over the years. A total of 33 cases over the last three years — 10 in the MP/MLA Special Court in 2020, 20 in 2021, and three in 2022. The reason stated in a majority of the judgments was, “The prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused.” In some cases, a lack of evidence was also cited.

It is only in one case booked in 2015 at the Bollaram police station regarding a beef festival organised at Osmania University that Raja Singh was convicted in 2020. He was sentenced to one month rigorous imprisonment and a Rs 5,000 fine. He was also granted bail in the case. 

In the hate speech case filed against Raja Singh by Quadri, Sagar says he found a loophole. The video links provided by Quadri were downloaded by the police station and written into a CD. However, Sagar found that the laid down procedures – requiring the complainant to submit the videos to the police along with a certificate of authenticity – were not followed.

“The onus lies on the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty,” Sagar says, “In most cases, the prosecution puts forward a weak case. We study the case in detail and identify the loopholes in the procedures followed by the investigating officer and his team. There is never a case where the laid down procedures have been correctly followed.” Sagar not only represents Raja Singh but also Bandi Sanjay who is the Telangana BJP Chief and the MP from Karimnagar.

A senior IPS officer says, “The police don’t follow the laid down procedures because it is too cumbersome in most cases. Good advocates end up finding loopholes in the non-adherence to procedures. Anything that is sent to FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) takes at least two or three years to return. By then, the police officials are transferred, the witnesses forget about the case and the outrage, too, dies down.”

In all cases against Raja Singh, the strategy remains the same. During the trial, Raja Singh denies all charges without furnishing any evidence to substantiate it. It is following this that his legal team does its work to highlight the loopholes in the procedures followed. All these points are then brought to the notice of the judge.

Witnesses turning hostile

Among the many cases against Raja Singh, one particular case was booked in 2010 at the Shahinayathgunj Police Station. According to the case details, on March 30, 2010 a mob led by Raja Singh attacked a CRPF officer and vandalised a police vehicle. The mob also set fire to a mosque at Gandhi Galli, and to the gates of another mosque. The accused also vandalised a paan shop and set it on fire.

This particular case had 11 witnesses in total. However, during the trial, several witnesses in the case turned hostile. The prime witness in the case, a man named Ismail, who was also the defacto complainant in the case, told the court that he did not know anything about the case and that 12 years ago he had signed and handed over a blank paper to the Shahinayathgunj Police Station at the behest of the police officers. Prosecution declared him hostile. Eight other witnesses in the case who were the panch witnesses in the case did not support the version of the prosecution. 

This case also had two police personnel as witnesses. Muniratnam, a police constable, told the court that a mob of 300 persons had pelted stones when the police tried to stop the procession. However, he also said that he could not identify any of those who were in the procession.

The last witness was Mazher Mohd Khan, who was one of the investigating officers. He deposed that the crime was registered by him as per statement of the witnesses against unknown offenders. He had registered a case against unknown offenders 12 years ago. However, as none of the witnesses could identify the accused as the ones involved, the court acquitted all those accused in the case, including Raja Singh.

On the same day in 2010, two more cases were booked against Raja Singh and others at the Afzalgunj police station. Two different cases were booked on March 30, 2010 for attacking the Gandhi Galli Mosque and setting fire to the gate of the Bahadur Jung Mosque. In both these cases, Karuna Sagar represented Singh and many others accused in the same case. In both these cases too, Raja Singh and others were acquitted 12 years later by the Special Court for MPs and MLAs in 2021. According to Karuna Sagar, in these two cases too the prosecution failed to prove the accused as guilty.

In a majority of the cases TNM also found that, like in the cases in which two mosques were attacked, witnesses turned hostile over the period of the trial. A senior police official tells TNM that fear of the gruelling system was the main reason why witnesses often turned hostile. In most cases, witnesses claim that they do not recollect the timeline of events or that what has been mentioned is not actually what they witnessed. As the trial takes several years and sometimes even more than a decade, witnesses can’t really be blamed because over the years they would have had to make several rounds of the court and probably only want the process to end.

Amjad Ullah Khan says several cases are kept under investigation for years without any real development. “After several years, the cases are closed one after the other. Three things are needed in such cases. A dedicated court for hate speech cases; time-bound investigation; and a rule that the investigating officer of a case, even if transferred, should continue to investigate the case. There are efficient officers who are transferred just when they are about to conclude an investigation in such cases. Then, new officers will have to start all over again and this makes the process very long and difficult.”

Amjad demands that action be taken against police officers who turn hostile. “Police officers who turn hostile should be issued a show-cause notice. Why is it only in Akbaruddin and Raja Singh cases the witnesses turn hostile? The entire process of eventually being acquitted emboldens such people,” he says. Akbaruddin Owaisi was acquitted in two hate speech cases in Nizamabad and Nirmal by the MLA/MP Special Court in April 2022. The TRS government had an option to appeal against the verdict, but it did not. Though not in an official alliance, the TRS and Akbaruddin’s party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are in a ‘friendly’ alliance in the state.

Quite often, especially in cases of hate speech, the police book suo motu cases. According to the police, such cases are booked only when hate speech is by a popular figure or a politician. Speaking to TNM, a senior police official under whose jurisdiction a case was recently booked against Raja Singh, says, “We booked a case but no investigation was done. We received instructions to proceed with the case based on the complaint received against MLA Raja Singh. Such cases of hate speech are only booked when the person in question is a politician or a popular figure. In Nupur Sharma’s case, several cases were booked across Telangana.”

The police say that hate speech is a recent phenomenon which has now evolved into a serious issue. “Until recently, the police never laid enough emphasis on social media. For the last few years, a lot of training has been imparted regarding social media and hate speech in particular,” says a senior Telangana police officer.

Courtesy TNM

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