Act against hate speech makers, SC tells government

New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) Holding that hate speeches targeting a section of society were weakening the country’s social fabric, the Supreme Court Monday urged the central and the state governments to demonstrate courage and proceed against political and religious authors of these speeches.

A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde told the government that it must have courage to take action against the political and religious leaders making hate speeches against the targeted population.

Hate speeches made by the political and religious leaders destroy the social fabric of the society. “That is why we need to take steps so that in some way these things can be checked,” the court observed.

The court expressed its anguish in the course of the hearing of a petition by NGO Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan which sought framing of guidelines to curb elected representatives, political and religious leaders from delivering hate speeches in pursuance of their narrow political goals.

As the court asked the central government to act against such people, Additional Solicitor General Siddarth Luthra told the court that the matter came under the domain of the state governments and it was up to them to move in such matter and curb such tendencies. The court then asked the petitioner to make all the state governmernts and union territories respondents in its petition.

In the last hearing of the matter April 8, the court had issued notice to the central government, the Election Commission, and the governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

The Election Commission Monday told the court that it did not have the powers under the Representation of People Act to derecognise the party on such grounds. The commission’s counsel Meenakshi Arora told the court that the commission had recommended an amendment to the electoral law so that it could proceed in such matters.

The PIL has said that numerous hate and derogatory speeches made by the elected representatives, political and religious leaders on caste, religion, region and ethnic lines were violative of the Article 14 (Equality before law), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste or place of birth), Article 16 (Equality in matter of public appointments), Article 19 (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech) and Article 21 (Protection of life and liberty) read with the Directive Principles of State Policy.

The PIL has urged the court to direct that “fraternity” forms the part of the basic structure of the constitution.

Referring to the hate speeches by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international working president Praveen Togadia, the PIL said that their utterances were destroying the fabric of democracy, unity and integrity of the country.

Underlining the importance of the guidelines to curb hate speeches, petitioners’ advocate Ravi Chandra Prakash said: “It is very important to have guidelines to curb hate speeches as they are targeted against the citizens particularly migrant workers.”

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