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SC orders cops & state govts to take ‘suo motu’ action against hate speech, or face contempt

SC seeks reports on action taken from govts of Delhi, UP and Uttarakhand. It was hearing plea seeking urgent intervention to stop hate speech against Muslims.

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New Delhi: Expressing concern over growing incidents of hate speeches in the country, the Supreme Court Friday directed state governments and police authorities to take “suo motu action” in such cases without waiting for formal complaints.

Non-compliance of this direction shall be construed as contempt of court, it said.

Such an action is needed to be taken to preserve the secular character of the country, a bench of Justices K. M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy ordered.

The top court went on to seek status reports from governments of National Capital Territory (NCT), Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh on action taken by their police on hate speeches within their jurisdictions.

“We feel the court is charged with the duty to protect the fundamental rights and also protect and preserve the constitutional values in particular the rule of law and the secular democratic character of the nation,” it noted.

Friday’s order came on a petition seeking court’s urgent intervention to curtail the increasing “menace of targetting and terrorising the Muslim community in India”. 

It is alleged in the petition that authorities are not taking action against the alleged hate speeches, which is a serious offence, and that the anti-terror law UAPA should be invoked against them.  

Petitioner Shaheen Abdullah mentioned about the recent statement of BJP’s West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma, alleging he indulged in hate speech by calling for economic boycott of the Muslim community. His lawyer, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, told the bench that the petitioner has filed many complaints, but there is no action. 

“This court or administration never takes action, except seeking status reports. These people are participating in events on a daily basis,” Sibal submitted.

When the bench expressed doubts over invoking Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Sibal said he would only press his plea to set-up an Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe instances of hate speech delivered at dharam sansad events and political gatherings. 

Nobody should be allowed to make hate speech, the senior counsel said to the bench’s question about whether Muslims also made similar statements.

Both judges expressed concern over Sibal’s submissions. Justice Joseph said: “Article 51A says we should develop a scientific temper. And where have we reached in the name of religion? It is tragic.”

Justice Roy felt it was “disturbing” to hear such speeches, especially in India, which is a democracy and religion-neutral.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: Govt a ‘mute witness’ to hate speech problem, says SC, suggests Vishaka-like code for TV debates





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