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Hathras Case: Forward Community Group Approaches SC; Seeks Check On "Random Use Of Caste In Reporting Of Crimes" [Read Application]

Akshita Saxena
14 Oct 2020 8:11 AM GMT
Hathras Case: Forward Community Group Approaches SC; Seeks Check On Random Use Of Caste In Reporting Of Crimes [Read Application]
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"The random use of caste in the reporting of crimes even when the caste of the involved parties is of no relevance, only helps to vilify and malign entire sections of people leaving them with no legal remedy and needs to be checked", the plea said. Alleging that hateful speech and false narratives were being spread by the media against members of the upper caste community in the wake of...

"The random use of caste in the reporting of crimes even when the caste of the involved parties is of no relevance, only helps to vilify and malign entire sections of people leaving them with no legal remedy and needs to be checked", the plea said.

Alleging that hateful speech and false narratives were being spread by the media against members of the upper caste community in the wake of the Hathras case, a Kerala-based organization of 'forward community members' has filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court.

The organization called Munnokka Samudaya Samrakshana Samithi(Forward Community Welfare Front) has filed the intervention application in the PIL pending in SC seeking CBI/SIT probe into the Hathras case(Satyama Dubey vs Union of India and others).

At the outset, the petitioner stated that its members were shocked and horrified by what happened in Hathras and added that the criminals should be brought to justice. At the same time, it expressed concerns at the media outlets running "speculative theories that it(Hathras crime) was the outcome of caste rivalry".

The organization, represented by Advocate Suvidutt MS, has submitted that there is no denying that the continuing social oppression, economic deprivation and exploitation of SC/ ST communities is one of the greatest blots on Indian society in general. However, it added that "that disseminating unverified theories based on concocted and yet to be proven facts also carries with it the inherent risk of reinforcing the caste fault lines and perpetuating caste differences which will not augur well for our democracy in the long run."

The Petitioner is aggrieved by the publication of "purely speculative theories" by print, electronic, digital and social media that the Hathras case was an outcome of caste rivalry.

The Petitioner-organization has argued that such "sinister narratives" that are being peddled in the form of news of the crime, are yet to be verified, and thus it is urged that the Supreme Court may be pleased to intervene in the matter and pass direction for neutral reporting.

The plea states,

"The quality of discussions on the unregulated social media platforms open to all and reports in some sections of electronic and print media had the tenor of vilifying and maligning the dignity, reputation and identity of all those identified by the media as upper castes by suggesting conclusions in what can rightfully be called prohibited speech and through suggestive innuendos holding entire groups of people responsible for the crimes committed by a few individuals alleged to belong to those communities."

It is stated that if such speculative theories are not halted, they would damage social harmony beyond repair.

To strengthen this argument, the Petitioner-organization has relied on the NCRB statistics, that show that thousands of cases registered as the outcome of caste-based discrimination are subsequently proved as "false". It submitted,

"While the concerned police records can be reversed to reflect the truth, there is no way that the damage caused to social harmony and public order by projecting these crimes as the outcome of caste-based discrimination can be undone. No attempt is made to pull down or correct such reports which gave the crimes false caste colour even after the facts are proved otherwise, and they continue to remain accessible to public and become a handy tool for vested interests waiting to prey on the caste faultlines."

It is pointed out that the present discourse of caste-based reporting, conflicts with the statutory and constitutional safeguards provided by the legislature, viz.:

  • Article 19 (1)(2) of the Constitution
  • Section 153A of IPC
  • Code of Ethics adopted by the Press Council of India
  • Programme Code formulated under the Cable and Television 14 Networks (Regulation) Rules, 1994

It is submitted,

"The improper enforcement of the existing provisions and a lack of guidelines and provisions to inhibit the spread of hateful speech and narratives can prove extremely detrimental to the social harmony amongst the various communities of our diverse population."

The petitioner has taken exception to "reckless mentions against an amorphous group" with the intention of putting collective blame on the community for the crime.

In this connection, the petitioner has referred to the observations made by the Supreme Court in the Sudarshan TV case (Firoz Iqbal Khan v Union of India).

"If you are targeting an identifiable group, they have civil law remedies. But when a wide amorphous group of people is targeted, where will one go to? Hate speech is to stereotype and targets identifiable targets of the population".

The plea said :

"...the random use of caste in the reporting of crimes even when the caste of the involved parties is of no relevance, only helps to vilify and malign entire sections of people leaving them with no legal remedy and needs to be checked. While it may be argued that such portrayal is done with the larger objective of calling out caste-based discrimination so as to bring an end to it, what cannot be ruled out is that disseminating unverified theories based on concocted and yet to be proven facts also carries with it the inherent risk of reinforcing the caste fault lines and perpetuating caste differences which will not augur well for our democracy in the long run. Coupled with the improper enforcement of the existing provisions and a lack of guidelines and provisions to inhibit the spread of hateful speech and narratives, it can prove extremely detrimental to the social harmony amongst the various communities of our diverse population".

Click here to download the application

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