The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 30 March, came down heavily on the State for its “impotent” response to increasing hate speech instances across the country.
“State is impotent, state is powerless; it does not act in time. Why do we have a State at all if it is remaining silent?”Supreme Court
A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna observed this while hearing a contempt petition against Maharashtra government authorities over their alleged failure to act against hate-speeches during rallies organised by the Sakal Hindu Samaj.
The top court also expressed displeasure over the fact that this was happening despite its repeated orders.
Here are other key observations made by bench on Wednesday:
“Now, are we going to go on taking contempt after contempt against every person in India?… Should there be no kind of restraint in speech of people in India? … We want to be No. 1 in the world and this is what internally is in our society… if there is intellectual depravement, you can never take this country to No. 1 in the world.”
“Hate is a vicious circle. State will have to initiate action” and “the moment politics and religion are segregated, all this will stop. We are telling you, whether you take it seriously or not."
“Fringe elements from all sides are indulging in hate speech” and “where are we going is the question. There were orators like Jawahar Lal Nehru, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. People from other states, miles away, would assemble (to hear their speeches)… Look at the freedom at midnight speech (Tryst with Destiny)… Vajpayee’s speeches with couplets. People from rural areas used to come and hear their speeches. Unfortunately, people who have no stuff, fringe elements on every side, are making these speeches. Where are you taking India is the question.”
“The major problem is when politicians make use of religion for power.”
The Centre's response: The bench’s comments elicited a sharp response from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who said that the centre was not silent when it came to hate speech instances. In fact, he added that states like Kerala were silent when genocidal calls against Hindus and Christians were made at a PFI rally in May 2022.
Mehta, who was appearing for the centre, questioned why the court did not take suo motu cognisance when it knew about it.
He also told the court that in Tamil Nadu, “a spokesperson of DMK” said “whatever Periyar says should have been done… if you want equality, you must butcher all Brahmins."
What Maharashtra said: Meanwhile, the state of Maharashtra assured the Bench the State is not supporting the commission of any cognizable offence and added that that it is the duty of the State to register an FIR.
However, the top court said, “Not only register FIR, you have to take further action.”
(With inputs from LiveLaw)