The Supreme Court of India has made some strong observations during a hearing on a contempt plea seeking directions to regulate hate speech. The bench of Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna noted that hate speech is a vicious circle and the state governments have become ‘impotent’ and do not act in time. The bench observed that hate speeches will end the moment politics and religion are segregated. Justice Joseph stated that when politicians stop using religion, all hate speech will stop. The bench noted that everyday fringe elements are making speeches to vilify others including on TV and public forums.
The bench cited the examples of speeches made by Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and expressed concern over the current state of affairs. Justice Nagarathna said, “Where are we going? We had orators like Nehru and Vajpayee. People from rural areas used to come to listen to them. Now fringe elements from all sides are making these statements and we are now asked to take contempt action against these people.” Justice Joseph added that the state is impotent and does not act in time.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in his submission, said that the petitioner should add some more hate speeches made in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to the case. “Leader of DMK party says that if you want equality you should butcher all the Brahmins,” the solicitor general said. “Just because it is said by someone famous, a hate speech cannot be pardoned,” Tushar Mehta said.
The bench referred to those speeches and said “every action has an equal reaction” and added, “We are following the Constitution and orders in every case are bricks in the structure of rule of law. We are hearing the contempt petition because states are not taking action in time. This is because the state has become impotent, powerless and does not act in time. Why should we have a state at all if it is silent?” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the bench to issue notice to the state of Kerala so that they can respond to the case.