Hate speeches sullying country’s atmosphere: Supreme Court

The court has also asked the Delhi and Uttarakhand governments to furnish details of police action taken against alleged hate speeches delivered at Dharm Sansads in Haridwar and the national capital last year

Supreme Court, Maharashtra political crisis

The Supreme Court on Monday (October 10) observed that a petitioner who had alleged government inaction over hate speeches, she might be right in saying that the entire atmosphere was getting sullied due to such type of public discourse, which needs to be curbed.

The petition was being heard by a bench of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat.

Also read: Hate speech on TV: ‘Why the govt remains a mute spectator?’ asks SC

In a separate case, justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli asked the Uttarakhand and Delhi governments to furnish details of police action taken against people who made ‘hate speeches’ at the controversial Dharm Sansads organised in Haridwar and Delhi last year.

The petitioner in the case heard by the CJI-led bench had alleged that the government was choosing to stay silent even though hate speeches were being made against minority communities “to win the majority Hindu votes, to grab power at all posts, to commit genocide and make India a Hindu Rashtra before 2024 elections.”

The court’s observation and the direction came on a day when the Delhi police said it has filed an FIR against the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other organisers of an event in Delhi, where certain speakers allegedly delivered hate speeches.

The bench also asked petitioner H Mansukhani to give details of particular instances of hate speeches including about the steps undertaken during the course of the investigation.

“This kind of a petition, though as a citizen, perhaps you may be right in saying that the entire atmosphere is getting sullied as a result of these hate speeches and perhaps you have every justifiable ground to say that this needs to be curbed,” it observed.

Also read: Haridwar hate speeches: Ex-armed forces chiefs write to President, PM

The bench, however, said for a court to take cognisance of a matter, there must be a factual background, and observed that the petitioner may concentrate on one or two instances.

“This is too random a petition, saying there are 58 instances where someone made a hate speech.” “We do not even know what are the details of the particular crime, what is the status, what is the stage, who are the persons involved, whether any crimes are registered or not registered,” it added.

The bench granted time to the petitioner to submit an additional affidavit concentrating on certain incidents and giving details of the crime in question, including about the steps undertaken during the course of the investigation, if any.

“The petitioner may also give details as to whether the crimes were registered and who are supposed to be the culprits.”

It said the affidavit be filed by October 31 and posted the matter on November 1.

While making her case, the petitioner, had referred to Bollywood film, The Kashmir Files, submitting that a hate speech is like an arrow that never turns back.

The bench observed that these are matters where the normal proceedings in a crime-related issue must be undertaken.

In the second case, activist Tushar Gandhi had sought contempt action against senior police officials for allegedly not taking any steps as per the guidelines laid down to curb hate speeches and lynching. The bench said that at this stage it is not issuing notice on the contempt plea but is only seeking responses from Uttarakhand and Delhi as to what action has been taken with regard to the hate speeches made at the Dharam Sansads.

“Both Uttarakhand and Delhi will file affidavits and explain the factual position and action taken,” it said. Advocate Shadan Farasat appearing for Gandhi said the activist was also one of the petitioners in the Tehseen S Poonawalla versus Union of India (2018 verdict) in which guidelines were laid down for curbing hate speeches and lynching.

Also read: Anti-hate speech law gains traction; where to draw the line is contentious

Farasat submitted that after filing of the petition two people who had given the hate speeches were arrested but seven others were not touched by police. The bench sought responses from the Uttarakhand and Delhi governments in four weeks.

The petitioner submitted that immediately after the events took place, the speeches were made available and in public domain but alleged that the Uttarakhand Police and the Delhi Police still did not act against the perpetrators.

Hate speeches were made in a Dharam Sansad held in Uttarakhands Haridwar from December 17 to 19 last year and in Delhi on December 19 last year, the petition alleged.

(With inputs from agencies)