The Supreme Court Tuesday observed that “abjuring hate speech is a fundamental requisite for the maintenance of communal harmony” in the country.
A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna made this oral observation while hearing a plea against hate speeches, news agency PTI reported.
Posing a question to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the bench asked what actions have been taken pursuant to the lodging of FIRs and observed that merely registering complaints is not going to solve the problem of hate speech. Mehta told the court that 18 FIRs have been lodged in relation to hate speeches.
The matter was then posted for hearing on Wednesday, despite objections by Mehta and Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj.
In October 2022, the apex court had directed the police chiefs of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand to take “immediate” suo motu action against the offenders of hate speeches by lodging criminal cases without waiting for formal complaints. The bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy had expressed anguish over hate speeches while calling these “very disturbing” and wondering “what have we reduced religion to”.
The court had also warned that “any hesitation to act in accordance with this direction will be viewed as contempt of court and appropriate action shall be taken against the erring officers”.
While India does not have a formal legal framework for dealing with hate speech, a set of provisions of the Indian Penal Code (Sections 153A and 295A), loosely defining hate speech, are invoked.
– With inputs from PTI