The Supreme Court on Friday directed all states and union territories to register FIRs against hate speech even if no complaint is made. This was done by extending the application of its October 2022 order where Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand police were asked to take suo moto action against hate speech.
As reported by LiveLaw, A bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna stated that “as and when any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as Section 153A, 153B, 295A and 506 of IPC etc, without any complaint being filed suo motu action [should] be taken to register cases and proceed against the offenders in accordance with law.”
The apex court termed hate speech a serious offence capable of affecting the fabric of the country. It stated that “such action be taken irrespective of the religion of the maker of the speech, so that the secular character of Bharat as envisaged by the Preamble is preserved.” Failure to file a case will be read as contempt of court.
The bench was hearing a collection of petitions on hate speech crimes. Advocate Nizam Pasha, representing one such petition, recommended that a nodal officer be appointed for each state and that a set procedure be established to take down hate speech from social media. Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for PUCL said that the organisation wished to supplement Pasha’s suggestions. The bench in-turn suggested a nodal officer for each district.
The contempt petition against the state of Maharashtra was also addressed, where permission was given to the Sakal Hindu Samaj to hold rallies in Maharashtra despite rampant hate speech and no measures were taken to prevent such speeches from being made. In February, the apex court had provided instructions to the Maharashtra authorities with respect to a rally that was to be held by Sakal Hindu Samaj on 5 Feb, including orders to videorecord the speeches.
In March, the Court had sought the response of the State of Maharashtra in a contempt petition which alleged that the State authorities failed to take action against hate speeches made during rallies.
In Friday’s hearing, Justice Joseph told the Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for Maharashtra, that Maharashtra should not take the court’s orders lightly. The ASG responded that the rally proposed for Feb 5th, that the rally did not take place and that, “Even in cases which the petitioners have not pointed out, we have registered FIR.”
However, Advocate Parikh alleged inaction on part of the State. He submitted, “After 5th Feb, several rallies took place. And there are some individuals who are repeatedly making statements, but no action taken.”
The Supreme Court will hear the matter next on May 12.