On Hate Speech, Supreme Court’s Big Order To States, And Contempt Warning

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The Supreme Court today extended the scope of its 2022 order — which directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand Police to take suo motu action against hate speech cases — and directed all states and union territories to register cases over hate speech even if no complaint is made. The court warned that delays in filing cases will be treated as contempt of court.
Terming it a serious offence, the top court further said hate speech is “capable of affecting the secular fabric of the country”.

The court was hearing a clutch of petitions on hate speech crimes. The bench had earlier sought a response from the state of Maharashtra on a contempt petition filed alleging failure to take action against hate speeches.

“We further make it clear that such action be taken irrespective of the religion of the maker of the speech, so that the secular character of Bharat as envisaged by the Preamble is preserved,” the bench, comprised of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna, today said in its order.

The petitioners have recommended a nodal officer be appointed for each state, to which the bench suggested one for each district. The petitioners further said a procedure needs to be set out for the take-down of hate speech from social media.

On applications filed seeking FIR against union minister Anurag Thakur and others for hate speech, Justice KM Joseph said that the Magistrate held that sanction is necessary for FIR and High Court also took the view that sanction is needed for 156(3).

“The judges are apolitical and not concerned with Party A or Party B and the only thing they have in mind is the Constitution of India,” the bench said.

It said the court has been entertaining petitions against hate speeches in different parts of the country for the “larger public good” and to ensure the establishment of the “rule of law”.

The Supreme Court will hear the matter next on May 12.

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