On Monday, the Supreme Court decided to consider a request made by Udhayanidhi Stalin, the Minister of Tamil Nadu, to have the First Information Reports (FIRs) against him in several States dismissed due to his comments on “Sanatana Dharma” thrown out.

Judges Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta initially stated that Mr. Stalin was not a layperson and that he should have been aware of the repercussions of his comments.

In response, Mr. Stalin stated that he was before the Supreme Court on a procedural matter rather than the case's merits. He claimed that filing numerous FIRs amounted to “persecution before prosecution” and violated his right to a fair trial.

“You violate Article 19(1)(a) [free speech], and Article 25 [freedom of conscience]. Now you're here under Article 32 [writ protection for fundamental rights]… You're not a layperson. You are a minister. You should have grasped the repercussions,” Justice Datta told senior counsel A.M. Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, and P. Wilson, who were representing the Tamil Nadu Minister.

According to Justice Khanna, Mr. Stalin could seek the High Courts in each of these states. The judge reasoned that it was now unclear whether charge sheets would be filed in all of these FIRs spanning across Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka, and Jammu and Kashmir for a variety of offenses, including spreading communal animosity and inciting religious emotions.

According to Mr. Singhvi, there have been occasions in the past when the top court has stepped in and combined the FIRs for TV anchors Arnab Goswami, Amish Devgan, and Nupur Sharma.

“On the merits, I might win or lose the case. However, I am being persecuted by having to flee. The same statement serves as the basis for the FIRs, Mr. Singhvi said.

Judge Datta questioned the Minister about whether or not the witness was expected to travel from Jammu to Tamil Nadu to testify in the case.

Neutral place

“Then don't have it in Tamil Nadu.” Have it at a neutral location. Have it in one place rather than multiple places at the same time. Otherwise, persecution comes before prosecution. I'll suffer my fate no matter where you club the FIRs. Mr. Singhvi said, “I am not on the merits of the case.”

Mr. Stalin's petition, filed through counsel Purvish Jitendra Malkan, stated that it was well established in criminal law that only the criminal courts with jurisdiction over the alleged offense would hear the case. Mr. Stalin delivered the speech in Chennai's Kamarajar Auditorium. A court in Chennai would have jurisdiction over the case.

“Overtones of politics”

Mr. Stalin expressed concern that his right to a fair trial might be impacted by inquiries that “certainly have political overtones” in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

“The petitioner was being harassed and was being overtaken by litigation through the filing of multiple complaints in various courts. The petitioner's time will be entirely devoted to traveling to various courts throughout the nation. According to the petition, he has already been the target of serious threats, including death threats.