“Those In Power Must Act Responsibly”: Delhi High Court On Hate Speech

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The Delhi High Court turned down the plea of CPM’s Brinda Karat to allow a police case against BJP MPs Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma today over alleged hate speech delivered in 2020 during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The court upheld the order of the trial court, which had turned down a similar appeal last year on the ground that there was no mandatory sanction from the central government.

The High Court, however, issued strong remarks on the subject of hate speech, especially by political leaders.

Expressing concern, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said, “Hate speech is given by elected representatives, political and religious leaders especially on the basis of religion, caste, region or ethnicity is against the concept of brotherhood”.

Such people, he said, “bulldoze the constitutional ethos” and violates the equality and liberty granted under the Constitution.
“This is a gross insult to the fundamental duties prescribed under the Constitution. Therefore, there is a need for strict action from the central and state governments,” the judge said.

Calling hate speech the “starting point of attacks” — ranging from discrimination to exclusion, deportation, and, even genocide — “against a targeted community” the court said it is “not appropriate for leaders to engage in such acts or speeches”.

“In a democracy like India, the elected leaders carry their responsibility not only towards the voters in their constituency, but also towards the society and nation as a whole and ultimately to the Constitution,” the court said.

Giving the example of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley, the court said hate speech is not specifically limited to any religion or community.

The judge also exhorted the executive and the civil society to help prevent the “menace of hate speech”.

“There is a need for effective control of “hate speech” at all levels and all law enforcing agencies must ensure that the existing law is not made a dead letter,” the court said.

In their petition before the trial court, Brinda Karat and KM Tiwari had said Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Varma “had sought to incite people, as a result of which three incidents of firing took place at two different protest sites in Delhi”.

On Januray 27, 2020, at a rally in Delhi’s Rithala, had Anurag Thakur had lashed out at the anti-CAA protesters and exhorted the crowd to raise the “Shoot the traitors” slogan, the petitioners had claimed. They also contended that on January 28, 2020, Parvesh Verma made incendiary comments against the anti-CAA protesters in Shaheen Bagh.

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