New Delhi: Widening the scope of hate speech cases, the Supreme Court on friday directed all the states and Union Territories to ensure that as and when any hate speech is made, they take suo moto action for registration of FIR even without any complaint being made.
A bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice K M Joseph and also comprising Justice B V Nagarathna, made it clear that all such action should be taken irrespective of the religion of the persons who made the speech so that the secular character of Bharat as envisaged by the Preamble is preserved.
The apex court also warned that any kind of delay in registering FIRs on hate speech cases will be treated as contempt of court.
Passing the order after hearing a bunch of petitions on hate speech crimes, the top court termed hate speech a serious offence, capable of affecting the country’s secular fabric.
The apex judiciary had earlier sought a response from the state of Maharashtra on a contempt petition filed alleging failure in taking action against hate speeches.
The order passed by the top court in October 2022 for suo motu registration of FIR in hate speech cases was passed against Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Uttarakhand governments.
“This is a huge country. Hate speech depends largely on context, language and even facial expressions,” the court said, and fixed the matter for further hearing to May 12.
During the course of the hearing, the apex court clarified, “We did not direct that action should be taken against the Hindu community or Muslim community. What we said was irrespective of the religion, action should be taken.”
The Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta argued that no one, from Central Govt or State Govts, justifies hate speeches. If hate speeches take place, what is to be done is given in Tehseen Poonawalla judgment.” He added, “It is a serious offence, no doubt. Whenever hate speech take place, the remedy is to approach the concerned police station.”
Justice Joseph said, “We want to say something. Both of us (judges) are apolitical. We don’t care about party A or party B. We are only on Constitution.”
The top court asked all the Counsel present to refrain from bringing political aspects into the present proceedings.
“Don’t bring in politics. If the attempt is to bring in politics, we won’t be a party to this…we have said, irrespective of religion, action should be taken,” the SC said.