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Hate speeches sullying atmosphere in India: SC

By, New Delhi
Oct 11, 2022 05:03 AM IST

The court directed the governments of Delhi and Uttarakhand to submit reports on factual aspects and the steps taken following the complaints of two separate religious events where alleged hate speeches were made

The atmosphere in the country is being “sullied because of hate speeches” and they need to be curbed, the Supreme Court observed on Monday even as the Union government, in a separate case, assured the top court of “zero tolerance” against any incitement to sectarian strife.

Two different cases pertaining to hate speech drew the attention of the apex court on Monday. (Amit Sharma)
Two different cases pertaining to hate speech drew the attention of the apex court on Monday. (Amit Sharma)

Two different cases pertaining to hate speech drew the attention of the apex court on Monday. One of these matters related to a fresh public interest litigation (PIL) demanding directives against conspiracies resulting in such hate speeches, while another case sought contempt action against the police chiefs of Delhi and Uttarakhand for their failure to act against spiteful comments made at religious events in December last.

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“You may be right in saying that the entire atmosphere is being sullied because of hate speeches. They need to be curbed,” observed the bench of Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat when it took up a PIL by Harpreet Mansukhani.

Mansukhani submitted that hate speech has been converted into a “profitable business” by certain political parties and that no action is being taken by the government.

The bench, however, noted that Mansukhani’s petition lacked particulars of the incidents and gave her three weeks to come back with instances of hate speeches and whether criminal cases were registered or not.

Meanwhile, another bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli took up a contempt petition filed by Tushar Gandhi, one of the petitioners in a 2018 judgment laying down elaborate guidelines on preventing hate speeches and taking corrective measures.

Advocate Shadan Farasat, representing Gandhi, pressed for the initiation of contempt proceedings against the police chiefs of Delhi and Uttarakhand, arguing they failed to act against the “genocidal speeches” made at two separate events held in their jurisdiction whereby calls were made to exterminate Muslims.

Agreeing to examine the matter, the bench gave the Centre and states four weeks to bring on record the steps taken so far in compliance with the 2018 judgment, whereby the apex court obligated the states to appoint nodal officers to curb hate speeches and act immediately against the offenders.

Representing the Centre, Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani submitted that he would want to take stock of the matter since he has taken charge as the top law officer recently. Venkataramani took over as AG on October 1.

“We assure you of zero tolerance in these matters...that is our approach. I will take stock and respond,” the AG told the bench, which fixed the next hearing after four weeks.

The court directed the governments of Delhi and Uttarakhand to submit reports on factual aspects and the steps taken following the complaints of two separate religious events where alleged hate speeches were made.

While one of the hate speech incidents is linked to the Dharam Sansad event held in Uttarakhand in December, a Hindu Yuva Vahini event in Delhi is also under the radar for the allegedly spiteful statements made by several participants.

Earlier, Farasat complained that in the Haridwar case, of the nine speakers who allegedly made hateful comments, only two were arrested and acted against. The lawyer added that show-cause notices should also be issued against Delhi Police chief for the alleged inaction.

Farasat also referred to a matter pending against a bench led by Justice KM Joseph where the court is hearing a clutch of petitions demanding guidelines to regulate hate speech and targeted attacks on Muslims based on a negative perception presented by the media. The AG, however, submitted that the two matters can be kept separate.

On September 21, the Justice Joseph-led bench termed hate speech a “poison” affecting the social fabric of the country, as it rued the lack of a legal framework that can serve as a deterrent against such remarks being propagated through television debates. This bench gave the Centre two months to decide whether it intends to bring a law to make “hate speech” a penal offence. The apex court, on that day, also remarked that TV channels were using “hate and all such spicy things” to increase their ratings. It sought to know why the government was a “mute spectator”, and noted that it was the duty of a TV anchor to prevent hate speech from being aired.

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