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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Union and state governments to clarify actions taken against hate speeches.
According to The Hindu, the court asked the petitioners – the president of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind – to prepare a chart of instances of hate speech and provide it to the states in a week. The states governments would in turn inform the steps they have taken to curb these instances.
A bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar was hearing a petition filed by Maulana Mahmood Asad Madani, the president of the Jamiat, which highlighted incidents of “hate speech and humiliation of Prophet Mohammed”, according to The Hindu.
The court listed the case for hearing after six weeks.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the petitioner, said hate speeches “continue to hold sway with impunity” despite the top court’s 2018 Tehseen Poonawalla judgment. In that judgment, the court asked the Union and state governments to take ‘preventive’, ‘remedial’ and ‘punitive’ measures foto deal with the increasing incidents of lynching. Hate crimes are a “product of intolerance, ideological dominance and prejudice”, it said.
The court had held that any failure on the part of the authorities would be viewed as an “act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct”.
On Thursday, the top court also asked the secretary of the Union home ministry to collate information from states and Union Territories (UTs) regarding the compliance of directions given earlier by the apex court regarding the preventive, corrective, and remedial measures to curb mob violence and hate speech.
The top court, which was hearing a batch of petitions concerning hate speech and rumour-mongering, said the secretary may collate necessary information by corresponding directly with the secretary of the home department of respective states and UTs within three weeks and compile it state-wise.
“It is not adversarial,” the bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Oka and J.B. Pardiwala, orally said, according to news agency PTI.
It observed that the information essentially would be in respect of the status of compliances by the respective states and UTs regarding the directions or observations in these earlier decisions of the apex court to provide for preventive, corrective, and remedial measures for “arresting the untoward situations” which occur and are referred to in the petitions before it.
“Considering the nature of the issue involved and in the backdrop of the general directions issued by this court ..we request the secretary, home department, Government of India, to collate necessary information from the respective states/UTs.,” the top court said.
The bench asked the concerned secretary of states and UTs to furnish the requisite information upon receipt of communication from the secretary of the home department within two weeks so as to ensure that he would be in a position to compile the necessary information and present it before the court within the specified time.
The bench said the respondents, including the Union government, concerned states, and UTs as well as the Election Commission of India (ECI) would file a response in the respective writ petitions within three weeks.
During the hearing, the bench asked the counsel appearing for the petitioners as to whether these matters pertain to different states. One of the advocates appearing in the matter said the issues pertain to incidents in different states.
Additional solicitor general K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the Union government, said they can collect information from various states and UTs as to what transpired there and what development has taken place to comply with the apex court directives.
“As the first step, at least this information should be before us. Which states are proactive, which are not acting at all, which have acted partially,” the bench observed.
The counsel appearing for the ECI told the bench that they have been impleaded as a party in one of the petitions, which has sought direction to the Union government to examine international laws and take effective and stringent steps to control hate speech and rumour-mongering in the country,
The bench also told ECI not to treat the matter as adversarial and asked the poll panel to step in.
On May 13, the apex court had permitted advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who is one of the petitioners in the matter and has raised the issue of hate speech and rumour-mongering, to implead the ECI as a party.
Upadhyay, in his plea, has alternatively sought a direction to the Union government to take apposite steps to implement recommendations of the Law Commission Report-267 on hate speech.
Upadhyay himself was arrested by the Delhi police in a case relating to anti-Muslim slogans that were raised at Jantar Mantar in August 2021. Upadhyay, a BJP leader, has claimed that the Delhi police “framed” him.
In the Shakti Vahini (2018) case, the top court termed honour crimes as an assault on human dignity and the majesty of the law. It had recommended that a law be brought to deal with offences which are “abhorrent to law”, as it laid down preventive, remedial, and punitive measures to deal with these crimes.
In the Tehseen Poonawalla case, the top court also asked parliament to consider enacting a new law to sternly deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism.
Later in October 2018, the apex court delivered a judgement in which it had passed a slew of directions to prevent rising incidents of mob violence across the country. It had observed that the person, who has initiated or instigated any act of violence against cultural programmes resulting in loss of life and damage to public or private property, shall be made liable to compensate the victims of such violence.