‘Why Can’t an Offending Anchor Be Taken off Air?’ Supreme Court on Hate Speech

The top court bench was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a curb on hate speech incidents across the country and action against the culprits.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, January 13, made two strong oral observations against hate speech, with one of them asking why offending TV anchors can’t be taken off air.

The other observation was made on the Delhi Police’s delay in the investigation of the Hindu Yuva Vahini hate speech case in December 2021.

One bench was led by Justice K.M. Joseph and the other was by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.

The bench comprising of Justice Joseph and Justice B.V. Nagarathna was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a curb on hate speech incidents across the country and action against the culprits.

According to the New Indian Express, it criticised the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) for its failure to act against TV channels indulging in hate speech.

It said nowadays everything is driven by TRP (television rating point) and channels are competing with each other and creating a division in society.

“Hate speech has become a complete menace. It has to stop,” it observed, adding that it wants “free and balanced press in India”.

“How many times have you taken off anchors? Have you dealt with anchors in a way that sends them the message? If the anchor is himself or herself part of the problem then what can be done,” Justice Joseph asked the NBSA counsel.

The bench further said many a time during live debates, the anchors became part of the problem as they either mute the voice of the person sitting in a panel or don’t allow them to present a counter view.

Justice Nagarathna said if TV channels are found to be violating the programme code by indulging in propagation of hate speech, action can be taken against their management, PTI reported.

“We want free speech, but at what cost,” the court said, adding that unlike for print media, there is no Press Council of India for news channels.

On October 21 last year, the top court had asked Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi to crack down hard on those making hate speeches, observing, “Where have we reached in the name of religion, what have we reduced religion to is tragic”.

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

The top court warned any delay on the part of the administration in taking action on this “very serious issue” will invite the court’s contempt.

Also read: 89 Instances of Hate Crimes, Hate Speech Across Six North Indian States in Four Months

Separately, the apex court bench led by CJI Chandrachud questioned the Delhi Police regarding its progress in the investigation in a hate speech case over the Hindu Yuva Vahini event held in December 2021.

The event was organised under the leadership of Sudarshan News TV editor Suresh Chavhanke in Delhi.

“What are you doing in terms of the investigation? The incident takes place on the December 19, 2021. The FIR is registered five months later in May 2022. Why do you require five months to register an FIR?” CJI Chandrachud asked Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, who was representing the Delhi Police.

“If you register FIR five months later and there is no substantial progress eight months later, how can you comply?” the top court asked.

According to LiveLaw, ASG Nataraj replied saying that the delay was not deliberate and that the police was doing the verification.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by social activist and Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi, the New Indian Express reported.

“In order to make this country a Hindu nation and to keep it a Hindu nation, and to move forward, we will fight, die and kill, if required,” Chavhanke had allegedly said at the event.