Suggesting that the hate speech menace is difficult to be curbed under the present regime,the Centre and Election Commission of India have expressed helplessness before the Supreme Court to penalise or restrain elected representatives and political parties from delivering hate speeches.
In their affidavits,the Centre has passed the buck on the state governments,saying it was for the respective state to take action if the speeches breached the laws and posed threats to the law and order situation. It said the Centre supports the state governments and Union Territories in a variety of ways and also sends advisories in this regard from time to time.
Further the central government has also circulated revised guidelines to promote communal harmony to the states and Union Territories in 2008,stating that strict action should be taken against anyone inflaming passions and stoking communal tension by intemperate and inflammatory speeches and the government also takes action under the Information Technology Act, it stated.
As far as punishing the leaders is concerned,the Centre said it was for a court of law to decide whereas de-registering a party was within the ECs domain.
But the EC said it lacked the power under the present provisions of the Representation of the People Act to de-register any party or punish an elected representative for delivering such speeches. While the RP Act laid down for registration of a political party,there was no provision in it for de-registration. The EC said it had been recommending the government since 1998 for amendment of the Act to provide it the power of de-registering a political party but to no avail.
The EC clarified that it was not within the jurisdiction of the Commission to monitor all activities of the political parties and its leaders outside the election period. Moreover,there was no authority with the EC to take action even during the election period against a registered but unrecognised party.
The replies have come to the courts notices on a PIL,filed by NGO Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan,through advocate Ravi C Prakash. The PIL cited examples of Raj Thackeray,VHP leader Praveen Togadia and others.