The Supreme Court Friday wondered if it could stop people from making provocative or derogatory speeches, pointing out that there were laws to deal with people making inflammatory speeches.
“How can we stop people from making derogatory speeches? How can it be enforced?” asked a bench of Justice B.S.Chauhan and Justice S.A. Bobde while hearing a petition seeking guidelines to curb elected representatives, political and religious leaders from delivering hate speeches in pursuance of their narrow political goals.
The court asked the petitioner – NGO Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan – to place before it the copies complaints about the people who have allegedly made hate speeches. The court gave time to the NGO to get the copies of the complaints and place before it as it adjourned the hearing.
The court had April 29 given time to the central government and the Election Commission to place before it their suggestions with regards to the guidelines sought by the NGO. By its order then, the court had also issued notice to the states as the issue came under the domain too.
The court had earlier observed that the “civil society too had a role in curbing such tendencies.”
Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan, in its petition, contended that numerous hate and derogatory speeches made by the elected representatives, political and religious leaders on caste, religion, region and ethnic lines were violative of the Constitution’s Articles 14 (Equality before law), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste or place of birth), 16 (Equality in matter of public appointments) 19 (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech) and 21 (Protection of life and liberty) read with the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Citing the hate speeches by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international working president Praveen Togadia, the NGO said the utterances of these leaders were destroying the fabtric of democracy, unity and integrity of the country.
“It is very important to have guidelines to curb hate speeches as they are targeted against the citizens particularly the migrant workers,” it noted.
The NGO has urged the court to declare that “fraternity” in the preamble of the constitution formed part of the “basic structure” of the Constitution.