Supreme Court: crack down on hate speech without waiting for complaint

The Supreme Court expressed fear over hate speech, calling them “deeply disturbing” and wondering “to what have we reduced religion”, in interim instructions, the Supreme Court ordered the police chiefs of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to suo motu “immediately”. to take. taking action against the perpetrators by filing criminal cases without waiting for formal complaints.

It warned authorities that “any hesitation to act in accordance with this direction will be considered contempt of the court and appropriate action will be taken against the erring officials”.

Judges KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy gave instructions on a petition by Shaheen Abdullah, a resident of Kozhikode in Kerala, who emphasized speeches delivered on October 10 at a Virat Hindu Sabha organized by the VHP unit in Delhi and other Hindu organizations in the capital. , and other similar petitions to take action on hate speech against Muslims at some Dharam Sansad events.

The bank wanted to know what action had been taken against hate speech in Delhi, UP and Uttarakhand, including a recent one in which BJP leader Parvesh Verma called for “total boycott” without naming any community.

Before the bench dictated the order, Judge Joseph said, “This is the 21st century. Where have we reached it? What have we reduced religion to? Article 51A speaks of scientific temperament. It is tragic.”

In its order, the bank said, respondents 2 to 4 (the Delhi Police Commissioner and the Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh Police Directors General) “will submit a report on what action has been taken regarding such acts that are the subject of this petition within their jurisdiction”.

The bank said they “will ensure that immediately when and when any speech or any action that attracts criminal offenses such as Sections 153A, 153B and 295A and 505 of the IPC etc. Suo motu action will be taken to register cases, even if there is no complaint, is forthcoming and prosecutes the violator in accordance with the law.”

Section 153A of IPC deals with promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, place of residence, language, etc., and engaging in acts harmful to the maintenance of harmony; 153B talks about imputations, claims that harm national integration); 295A refers to intentional and malicious acts intended to offend religious feelings of any class by insulting their religion or religious beliefs; Section 505 deals with statements conducive to public mischief.

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The IPC offers:

The Supreme Court warned of contempt for failing to act against those giving hate speech, reminding authorities that there are sufficient provisions in India’s penal code to initiate suo motu action. It specifically pointed to IPC Sections 153A, 153B, 295A and 505 to address speeches promoting enmity based on religion, public vice and a threat to national integration.

The bench said: “Such action will be taken irrespective of the religion to which the speaker of the speech or the person committing such act belongs, so that the secular nature of Bharat as provided in the preamble is preserved and protected”.

It also asked respondents to “provide direction(s) to their subordinates so that appropriate legal action will be taken at the earliest”.

In issuing a notice, the bank said that “the complaint raised in the immediate writ petition appears to be very serious. It relates to the growing climate of hatred in the country”.

“This, according to the petitioner, is due to a never-ending stream of what has been described as hateful speeches by various individuals against the Muslim community… The petitioner’s complaint is one of despondency and fear arising from the perception that despite appropriate provisions in criminal matters law is available, there is passivity or rather total passivity”.

It said: “The Constitution of India regards Bharat as a secular nation and brotherhood which ensures the dignity of the individual and unity and the integrity of the country is the guiding principle enshrined in the preamble. There can be no brotherhood unless members of the community from different religions or castes of the country can live in harmony”.

It stated that “we believe that the court is charged with the duty to protect fundamental rights and also to protect and preserve constitutional values, in particular the rule of law and the secular democratic nature of the nation,” it said, “the case to be investigated, and some form of interim guidance”.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal appeared before the petitioners and referred to the October 10 event.

The bank asked if a complaint had been lodged. Sibal replied, “We have filed many complaints. This court or administration never takes action. Always status reports… We should not come to this court.” He said such events are now held on a daily basis.

The bank wanted to know if he, as justice minister, had suggested anything to curb such acts. Sibal said yes, but there was no consensus.

Referring to the speeches at the event, he said Verma had talked about “boycott” while another speaker had talked about slitting throats.

“What can we do? Silence is certainly not an answer. Not on our part, not on the part of the court,” Sibal said, urging the court to order an investigation by a special investigation team.

Justice Joseph asked if Muslims also made hate speeches. Sibal replied that no one who makes hate speech should be spared. The bank further stated that those on both sides are making such speeches.

Referring to the statements cited in the petition, Judge Roy said they are “deeply disturbing” and “condemnable” as the country is religion neutral. He, too, wanted to know why statements against one community are only being brought forward, and said the court cannot be considered biased.

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