Supreme court must ensure hate speech guilty are punished

News: Recently, some hate speech incidents have taken place in Uttarakhand and Delhi. 

Here the speakers have given Speakers made statements about killing Muslims to make a Hindu Rashtra, shooting a former prime minister and calling upon the police, leaders and the army to take up arms to indulge in ethnic cleansing.  

Although the government has constituted an SIT to look into the matter, there is need for more concrete actions in such which atters of this grave importance. 

These can have serious implications for peace and stability in the country. 

What has been the Supreme Court’s views on hate speech? 

Incidents like these involving the question of the rule of law, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.  

SC in Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India had defined “hate speech” as “an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group.” 

It further said, “Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on the vulnerable that can range from discrimination to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide.  

The court observed that: “The root of the problem is not the absence of laws but rather a lack of their effective execution.” 

How is Article 21 relevant to the current issue? 

All citizens in India are guaranteed their right to life and personal liberty. Issuing threatening statements against anyone or any specific community is a clear violation of this right enshrined under Article 21. 

Right to life and personal liberty (Article 21): Constitution of India affords all citizens equal rights.  

SC has held that Article 21 must be interpreted in conformity with international law, as India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.

The state therefore has an absolute obligation to ensure that this right is not just preserved but protected. 

What are different views on the values of fraternity and equal rights? 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had stated in 1949 that It would be in the interest of all to forget that there is anything like majority or minority in this country and that in India there is only one community. 

Constitutional framers had advisedly incorporated “fraternity” as one of the goals in the Preamble.  

B R Ambedkar, had stated in the Constituent Assembly that: “Fraternity is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life.” “If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.” 

In I R Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu the Supreme Court itself held that “Over the years, the jurisprudence and development around fundamental rights have made it clear that they are not limited, narrow rights but provide a broad check against the violations or excesses by the State authorities”. 

What is the way forward? 

Whenever there is an indication that rights of citizens or any section of it are compromised then Supreme court must step in as it is the real custodian of the fundamental rights of citizens and their ultimate protector.  

Source: This post is based on the article Supreme court must ensure hate speech guilty are punished” published in The Indian express on 6th Jan 2022 

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