Why govt silent on hate speech, asks Supreme Court; questions role of TV news anchors : The Tribune India

Why govt silent on hate speech, asks Supreme Court; questions role of TV news anchors

'Hate speech completely poisons the very fabric, it can’t be permitted' | 'Why allow airtime to hatemongers'

Why govt silent on hate speech, asks Supreme Court; questions role of TV news anchors

Amid growing incidents of hate speech, the Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed serious concern over the absence of an effective institutional mechanism to regulate the media and questioned the role of TV anchors in giving airtime to hatemongers. - File photo

Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, September 21

Amid growing incidents of hate speech, the Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed serious concern over the absence of an effective institutional mechanism to regulate the media and questioned the role of TV anchors in giving airtime to hatemongers.

Need a legal framework

Hate speech completely poisons the very fabric, it can’t be permitted. We should have a proper legal framework. If it is hate speech that we are feeding on, where is our nation headed to? Justice Joseph

Why allow airtime to hatemongers

The role of anchor is very critical because the moment you see somebody going into hate speech, it’s the duty of the anchor to immediately see that he doesn’t allow that person to say anything further. SC Bench

Wondering why the government stood as a “mute spectator” to hate speech, a Bench led by Justice KM Joseph asked it to spell out its stand on the recommendations made in the Law Commission’s 267th report (2017) to deal with the menace.

“The role of the anchor is very important. Hate speech either takes place in mainstream television or it takes place in social media which is largely unregulated…. As far as mainstream television channels are concerned, they still hold sway,” it said.

“The role of anchor is very critical because the moment you see somebody going into hate speech, it’s the duty of the anchor to immediately see that he doesn’t allow that person to say anything further. Unfortunately, many a time when somebody wants to say something, he is muted. The person is not given proper time, he is not even treated courteously,” the Bench said.

“Hate speech completely poisons the very fabric…. It can’t be permitted…. We should have a proper legal framework… unless we have a framework, people will continue (with hate speech) and the most important point is where is our nation headed if it is hate speech that we are feeding on, where is our nation headed to…,” Justice Joseph said.

The Bench, which also included Justice Hrishikesh Roy, allowed states to file replies after it was told that only 14 of them had responded to the petitions. It asked senior counsel Sanjay Hegde to collate the responses and posted the matter for further hearing on November 23.

While the print media is regulated by the Press Council of India constituted under a law enacted by Parliament, the TV news industry is largely self-regulated by the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) set up by the National Broadcasting and Digital Association (NBDA) and Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) set up by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF). The only government regulation for the TV industry is in the form of Programme Code and Advertisement Code under the Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act which largely put the onus on cable operators.

Noting that politicians benefit the most from hate speech, the Bench said, “Political parties will come and go… without a totally independent press, no country can go forward, it’s absolutely important that we have true freedom.” Maintaining that there should be free debate, it said, “But you should also know where to draw the line because there is a huge influence, particularly of the visual media…. The freedom of speech is actually for the benefit of the listener. How would the listener ever make up his mind after listening to a debate where it is just a babble, you can’t even make out what is happening.”

As the Bench sought to know the provisions of law on hate speech in India, one of the petitioners, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, said the Election Commission had filed an affidavit suggesting specific provisions to be added to the existing laws.

Constitution Bench proceedings to be live-streamed

  • The Supreme Court has decided to live-stream all Constitution Bench proceedings from September 27
  • Taken in a full court meeting chaired by the CJI, the decision came almost four years after the top court decided in favour of live-streaming, terming it “need of the hour”
  • There has to be “promptness” in such things, it had said, ceding to demands of live-streaming of important cases, particularly Constitution Bench matters

#hate speech #supreme court

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