Indian Courts Provide Government a Pathway on Rights

Recent Rulings Criticize Police, Officials for Discrimination, Fabricated Charges

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and its prominent supporters have been responding to recent international criticism of widespread discrimination against minority communities by stoking nationalism, even blaming a “colonial mindset.”

Two recent court rulings provide BJP leaders an opportunity to reverse the damage that the government’s divisive Hindu majoritarian policies have caused to the rule of law and India’s standing as a rights-respecting democracy.

On February 6, the Supreme Court criticized the police in Uttar Pradesh state for failing to investigate allegations in 2021 from a 62-year-old Muslim man who alleges he was beaten and abused because of his faith. The perpetrators of such hate crimes against Muslims and other religious minorities are often BJP supporters who are seldom prosecuted, and in this case the state government filed an affidavit denying that the attack was over religion. But one of the judges, noting the authorities’ failure to investigate, said: “When you create a climate where you foster hate crime, encourage it, do not prevent it, then it becomes a very serious thing.”

Two days earlier, a Delhi sessions court dismissed allegations that student protesters had committed violence and upheld their right to dissent. The police had accused 11 students, most of them Muslim, with inciting violence in December 2019 during their protest against a discriminatory citizenship law. The court found that the police charges made “scapegoats” of protesters and that the prosecution should have “abstained from filing such ill-conceived” charges.

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