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On Hate Speech, Supreme Court Asks States/UTs To File Cases Even In Absence Of Complaint

A bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna was considering a batch of petitions which sought action with respect to various instances of hate crimes across the country. 

The Supreme Court on Friday directed all states and union territories to register cases over hate speech even if no complaint is made, extending the scope of its 2022 order — which directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand Police to take suo motu action against hate speech cases.

The court also warned that delay in registering hate speech cases would be treated as contempt of court. “Irrespective of the caste, community, religion of the maker of the speech, no one can be allowed to break the law,” the court said.

What did the earlier order say?

The bench said its October 21, 2022 order shall be made applicable irrespective of religion. “Where have we reached in the name of religion? What have we reduced religion to is really tragic,” the apex court had then observed and directed Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand to crack down hard on those making hate speeches, calling them shocking for a country that is religion-neutral.

Holding that the Constitution of India envisages a secular nation, the court had directed Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi to promptly register criminal cases against the offenders without waiting for a complaint to be filed.

On Friday, the bench said, “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”. 

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

The top court’s order came on a plea filed by journalist Shaheen Abdullah, who had initially sought direction against Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to register cases against those delivering hate speeches. Abdullah had again moved an application seeking implementation of the apex court’s October 21, 2022 order across states and union territories.

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 made during rallies, according to a report by LiveLaw.

Expressing a sense of anguish at the rise in hate speech cases, the bench had commented with despair, “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?”. The bench also repeatedly highlighted the importance of maintaining communal harmony and brotherhood, the report said.

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

Source: Outlook India