Clarify Scope of Hate Speech: Civil Servants To SC On UPSC Jihad Issue

The Constitutional right to freedom of speech protects “offensive” speech but not “hate speech”, hence the petitioners asked for the distinction between the two to be made clear. 

sudarshan tv
Courtesy: The Wire Hindi

A group of former civil servants under the collective “Constitutional Conduct” have filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court, seeking a ruling on the scope of “hate speech”. Before this, they had written to various government bodies seeking action against Sudharshan TV’s “UPSC Jihad” show,

Recently, Suresh Chavhanke, editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News, announced an expose of “Muslim infiltration” of civil services, calling students passing out of Jamia’s Residential Coaching Academy (RCA) and clearing the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) as “Jamia ke Jihadi” and the phenomenon of Muslims in the civil services as “UPSC Jihad”.

While this was widely condemned, a Supreme Court bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and K M Joseph had refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the show, but noted that the petition that highlighted that the expression of views derogatory to a particular community had a divisive potential and had raised significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights.

In their letter on September 1, signed by 91 former civil servants belonging to the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central Government as well as different State Governments of India, highlighted the various grounds on which action should be taken against Sudarshan TV.

First, the show would generate hatred towards the Muslim community.

Second, it will tar the tar the impeccable reputation of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the premier organisation for civil service recruitment, by claiming that it is biased in its recruitment processes.

Third, it will spread a false belief about a disproportionate increase in the number of Muslims being selected for government services, in which Muslims are vastly underrepresented.

Fourth, it will malign the reputation of Jamia Millia Islamia, which has recently been rated as the top central university in India.

Finally, the use of terms like “UPSC jihad” and “Civil Services jihad” will divide the civil administration of the country along religious lines.

Since the Court had indicated that it would consider the larger questions dealing with the lines between freedom of speech and hate speech, the petitioners appealed for the Court to issue an authoritative ruling setting out the scope of “hate speech”.

The Constitutional right to freedom of speech protects “offensive” speech but not “hate speech”, hence the petitioners asked for the distinction between the two to be made clear.

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