Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 29
Terming hate speech as a “vicious circle”, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it was a result of mixing politics with religion and wondered why states can’t develop a mechanism to check the menace.
Calling for separation of religion from politics, a Bench led by Justice KM Joseph said, “Major problem arises when politicians are mixing politics with religion. The moment politics and religion are segregated, this will end. When politicians stop using religion, all this will stop. We have said in our recent verdict also that mixing politics with religion is dangerous for democracy.”
“Everyday fringe elements are making speeches to vilify others including on TV and public forums,” the Bench – which also included Justice BV Nagarathna—said during hearing of a petition seeking contempt of court action against various states, including Maharashtra for failing to register FIRs against hatemonger leaders.
“This is going on because the State is impotent, powerless and doesn’t act in time. Why do we have the State at all if it’s silent?” it said, refusing to dispose of a contempt plea filed against Maharashtra government for allegedly failing to act on the top court’s order.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta questioned petitioner Shaheen Abdullah for being selective in highlighting hate speech incidents as he pointed out a derogatory speech made by a man in Kerala against a particular community and a DMK leader’s statement in Tamil Nadu. Mehta sought to know why the petitioner’s counsel did not implead the two states in the contempt petition.
As the Bench said the State has become impotent and powerless, Mehta said, “I can’t say that about any state but the Centre is not. The Centre has banned PFI. Please issue notice to the state of Kerala so that they can respond to this.”
The Solicitor General insisted on playing a hate speech video clip from Kerala. “Why are we shying away from looking at the clip? Why can’t the court allow me to play the video clip of the speeches? Why Kerala can’t be issued notice and made a party to the petition. Let us not be selective. I am trying to show the clip which is in public domain. This court could have taken suo motu cognisance of these speeches…This will have wider ramifications.”
The Bench said, “Let us not make this a drama. This is a legal proceeding…There is a method to see a video clip. This applies to all equally. If you (Mehta) want, you can include it in your submission.”
“We need to look where we as a country are going? There were orators like Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee… the midnight speech…People from remote areas and every nook and corner used to come to hear these leaders. Now, fringe elements from all sides are making these statements and we are now asked to take contempt action against these people,” Justice BV Nagarathna said as she wondered how the court could curtail “intellectual deprivation” emanating from lack of education.
“How many contempt cases can we take against these people? That’s why I asked the other day, how the apex court will deal with this. Why do you (petitioner) start with the apex court? Should not there be some restraint on speeches else we will not become the India we desire for. Why cannot the citizens of this country take a pledge to not vilify others and what kind of pleasures we are deriving by making these speeches,” she said.
Asking the Maharashtra Government to respond to the contempt plea, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 28. It also allowed an intervention application filed by ‘Hindu Samaj’ in the matter.
On behalf of the petitioner, advocate Nizam Pasha alleged that in the last four months 50 rallies were held in Maharashtra where hate speeches were made.
On Tuesday it had said abjuring hate speech was a fundamental requisite for maintenance of communal harmony and sought to know the action taken after the lodging of hate speech FIRs.
The top court had on October 21 last year directed the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to act against those making hate speeches and register criminal cases against them without waiting for complaints.
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