Police need to be sensitised about hate speeches: SC
The Supreme Court observed that while the definition of what constitutes hate speech is complex, there is a bigger problem of execution at the ground level
The Supreme Court on Friday said that police need to be sensitised about hate speech crimes and observed that while the definition of what constitutes hate speech is complex, there is a bigger problem of execution at the ground level. The court also sought the assistance of the Centre and states in this regard and posted a bunch of petitions seeking to curb hate speech after two weeks.
With several applications filed in the top court for directions to authorities for taking steps to curb hate speech and violence, the bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti said, “A solution must be found. Everybody should not be coming to court on these matters.”
The court was dealing with an application it took up on August 2 with regard to the protests being organised in Delhi and the national capital region (NCR) in the aftermath of the communal violence that broke out at Nuh district in Haryana. The court on Wednesday directed the authorities at Centre and states to ensure no violence or hate speech takes places at the venues of these protest meetings.
Advocate Nizam Pasha moved a fresh application before the court saying that despite the court’s order, hate speeches against Muslims were made at the protest rallies in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
The court said, “One aspect of the matter is the definition of hate speech - what amounts to hate speech and what is free speech -, which itself is complex as it is not well-defined . But the bigger problem is of execution and implementation.” The bench added, “Some sensitisation has to be done among the police force. On that we would like the assistance of Centre and states. There are problem areas. After all, it is in the interest of everybody to have peace.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Centre and pointed out that in 2018, the Supreme Court gave elaborate directions in Tehseen Poonawala v Union of India case where hate speech is clarified. “If there is violation of law, remedy is to file FIR. It has now become a practice to approach the Supreme Court by filing a contempt petition and getting an advance ruling to ensure no offence is committed.”
While agreeing to assist the court in arriving at a solution, Mehta pointed out that most applications will suggest “selective people coming to court for selective prayers”. He referred to video clips in circulation which threaten to demolish the very foundations of secularism. But such videos are not brought to the court, Mehta added.
Senior advocate CU Singh appearing in the application relating to Nuh violence, said, “This is not an adversarial petition. You have speeches being made justifying genocide of persons in the name of religion.”
The bench agreed to take up these issues after a period of two weeks and said, “This issue requires consideration. We have something in mind. Meanwhile, you may also sit together and find a solution.”
The court while dealing with these petitions in October last year and later in January this year passed a slew of directions to curb hate speeches. The court devised a mechanism by which even in the absence of a complaint, the police could proceed against persons by registering criminal cases where hate speeches are made and even take precautionary measures to ensure such incidents are prevented before they take place.
For classifying hate speech as a penal offence, a recommendation was made by the Law Commission in March 2017. It suggested insertion of new provisions – Section 153C (prohibiting incitement to hatred) and Section 505A (causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases) in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). At present, such crimes are booked under Section 153A (promoting enmity), Section 295A (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings) and Section 298 (uttering words to wound religious feelings of a person).