A petition has been filed in the Karnataka High Court seeking directions to take action in accordance with law against media houses and political leaders who have made 'hateful statements' against the Minority Community after several members of the Tablighi Jamaat tested positive for Coronavirus.
Campaign Against Hate Speech, through its founders Siddharth Joshi, A.R. Vasavi and Swati Swathi Sheshadri have moved the court claiming that respondents have in failing to act against the various hateful statements and reports made by the media and political reports has resulted in violation of Fundamental Rights, in particular the Right To Life and Livelihood of various people.
A division bench led by Chief Justice Abhay Oka on Monday, directed the registry to place the matter before a bench headed by Justice B V Nagarathna for further hearing.
The petition gives instances of inflammatory remarks that have been made through private television channels---"Corona super spreaders......they have no right to live on this soil.", "We have identified the corona villains and all we need to do is, firstly isolate, second catch them, third punish them and lastly defeat them and this will be a major achievement." "The government should initiate Draconian steps, unforgiving steps to teach this .... a lesson, make them pay, destroy their financial base, put huge fines on them, lock up leadership in jail".
The petition is to be argued by Advocate Harish B Narassapa and Advocate Poornima Hatti of Samvad Partners. It has attached as annexure clippings of debates conducted by news channels like, Times Now, Republic Tv, CNN-News18 and statements made on social media platforms and interviews given to news channels, by Member of Parliament and Member of Legislative Assembly.
The petition reads "The said media statements and reports have targeted the members of a minority community by accusing them of willfully spreading the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement and reports clearly constitute 'hate speech' as defined by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Pravasi Bharathi Sangathan v. Union of India (AIR 2014 SC 1591), thereby falling outside the scope of the right to freedom of speech and expression granted by the article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India."
It is also said that the media reports and statements made by political leaders, falsely attributing the spread of the pandemic in the country solely to one community, has resulted in several reported instances wherein members of the community have been boycotted, socially and economically and in many cases have also been physically attacked. Members of the public have acted on these biased reports shared across media platforms by denying to the community access to timely medical care and other welfare measures including rations.
The plea says "It is abundantly clear from these derogatory statements made on news-channels on national and regional television and in various publications that they have been made with the sole intention and purpose of inciting hatred against certain communities. Such repeatedly biased and even false coverage (in the light of clear scientific and medical facts) is a clear offence under Section 153A IPC as it promotes enmity between different religions."
The respondents have failed to uphold the "rule of law" which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution by their continued inaction. The failure of the respondents to take action against the violators has encouraged behaviour which perpetrates new forms of social boycott that violates not only the principle of fraternity but also specifically Article 17 of the Constitution.
The plea prays for directions to the respondents to take action in accordance with law against media houses and political leaders who have done, and continue to, violate the law with impunity. Direct, respondent No.1 (State of Karnataka) to initiate steps to take down inflammatory videos and reports targeting specific communities. Also direct the Director General and Inspector General of Police, to initiate action against media houses and political
leaders who have violated provisions of the IPC and other applicable penal laws.
Further, direct the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to issue appropriate orders against the media houses who have violated the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 read the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Rules,1994 as well as the Advisories issued.
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