Suo motu action against hate speech crimes must be taken without waiting for complaint : Supreme Court

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There cannot be fraternity unless different religious communities are available to live in harmony, the Supreme Court observed on Friday, October 21 and issued a set of interim directions in a plea to curb hate speeches in the country.

Livelaw reports that a bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy directed the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh to file a report before the Court regarding the actions taken on the hate speech crimes which happened within their jurisdiction.

Significantly, the Court directed that these Governments should take suo motu action against any hate speech crime, without waiting for any complaint. The action should be taken regardless of the religion of the speaker. Any hesitation to act as per the directions would be viewed as contempt of court, the Court warned.

A bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a petition seeking urgent intervention to stop the “growing menace of targeting and terrorizing the Muslim Community in India”.

The bench issued notice on the petition observing that the complaint raised that the authorities are not taking action by not registering criminal complaints against hate crimes was serious. The bench said that the complaint of the petitioner relates to the “prevailing climate of hate in the country” and total inaction of the authorities.

“The Constitution of India envisages Bharat as a secular nation and fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the country are guiding principles enshrined in the Preamble. There cannot be fraternity unless members of the community drawn from different religions or castes are able to live in harmony”, the bench observed in the order.

The petitioner has voiced the concern that even after the directions of the Supreme Court, no action has been taken and that the transgressions have only increased.

Taking note of this concern, the Court observed in the order :

“We feel the court is charged with the duty to protect the fundamental rights and also protect and preserve the constitutional values in particular the rule of law and the secular democratic character of the nation”.

Directions issued are significant :

1. Respondents 2 to 4(Govts of Delhi, UP & Uttarakhand) will file a report as to what action has been taken in regards to acts as are the subject matter of this writ petition within their jurisdiction.

2. Respondents 2 to 4 shall ensure that immediately, as and when any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as Section 153A, 153B, 295A and 506 of IPC etc, without any complaint being filed suo motu action be taken to register cases and proceed against the offenders in accordance with law. We make it clear that any hesitation to act in accordance with these direction will be viewed as contempt of court and appropriate action shall be taken against the erring officers.

3. Respondents 2 to 4 will issue directions to the subordinates so that appropriate action can be taken at the earliest. 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.

In the court room 

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner Shaheen Abdulla, told the bench that BJP leader Parvesh Verma indulged in hate speech by calling for economic boycott of Muslims. “We have filed many complaints. This Court or administration never takes action except seeking status reports.These people are participating in events on daily basis”, Sibal submitted.

The bench however expressed doubts regarding the prayer to invoke UAPA with respect to such offences. Sibal replied that the prayer that is pressed the one to constitute Special Investigation Team to investigate the hate speech crimes which took place at Dharam sansad events and political meetings at different parts of the country.

“Are Muslims also making hate speech?”, Justice Joseph asked.No one who makes hate speeches should be spared, Sibal replied.

“Article 51A says we should develop a scientific temper. And where have we reached in the name of religion? It is tragic”, Justice Joseph exclaimed at this juncture. Justice Roy, referring to the statements mentioned in the petition, said that they are “very disturbing”, especially considering the fact that our country is a democracy and is religion neutral. But he asked whether the statements against one particular community are alone highlighted. The case being heard is Shaheen Abdullah versus Union of India W.P.(C) No. 940/2022.



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