India Supreme Court orders state governments to address hate speech
© JURIST (Neelabh Bist)
India Supreme Court orders state governments to address hate speech

The Supreme Court of India Thursday expressed concern over the rising incidents of hate speech in the country and directed the governments and police authorities to take suo motu action in such cases without waiting for a formal complaints to be lodged.

Journalist Shaheen Abdullah petitioned the court to order the central government and the states to conduct independent, credible and impartial investigations into incidences of hate crimes and hate speech across the country. Abdullah specifically sought investigations into individuals who made hateful comments about Muslims and prosecutions under the stringent UAPA. Abdullah listed several speeches in which speakers called for a boycott of Muslims on the economic and social fronts as well as an outright genocide of Muslims.

A bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy stated that such hate speech is disturbing, especially for a country that is democratic and officially religion-neutral. The justices added:

The Constitution of India envisages Bharat as a secular nation and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and the integrity of the country is the guiding principle enshrined in the Preamble. There cannot be fraternity unless members of community drawn from different religions or castes of the country are able to live in harmony. We further make it clear that such action will be taken irrespective of the religion that the maker of the speech or the person who commit such act belongs to, so that the secular character of Bharat as is envisaged by the Preamble, is preserved and protected.

In an interim order, the court issued notices to the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to immediately register criminal cases against offenders without awaiting the filing of a complaint. The court warned that any additional delay on the part of the administration would be grounds for contempt.