BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has moved the Supreme Court seeking implementation of the 267th Report of the Law Commission of India, to curtail hate speech during election campaigns.
In 2014, the Supreme Court observed that the implementation of existing laws would solve the problem of hate speech to a limited extent and therefore it asked the Law Commission to make recommendations to the Parliament to strengthen the Election Commission to curb the menace of 'hate speeches' during electoral campaigns. Thereafter, a Report was submitted by the Commission on March 23, 2017, which the Petitioner points out has not been implemented till date.
As per the Petitioner, political rivalry and electoral campaigns are often painted in hate speech. Candidates often appeal on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language etc. and promote feelings of enmity between different classes. Therefore, he has asserted that is necessary to take appropriate steps to implement the recommendations of the Law Commission Report.
"not only in Parliament and State Assembly Elections, even in local body elections; hate speech is made to support particular party and candidate, which is against the basic dictum of a 'sovereign socialist secular democratic republic' like ours.
…The injury caused to the public is large because hate speech severely affects fraternity, dignity of individual, unity and national integration. Hate speech has potential of provoking individuals & society to commit acts of terrorism, genocides, ethnic cleansing etc. Offensive speech has real and devastating effects on people's lives and risks their health and safety. It is harmful and divisive for communities and hampers social progress. Hate speech also offends fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 and 21," the plea read.
He submitted that the Report suggests certain reforms that will empower the Election Commission to take stringent action against a delinquent candidate, indulging in hate speech. As of now, he pointed out, even though hate speech during elections is classified as 'corrupt practices' under Section 123 RPA, the same is actionable only through an Election Petition and Election Commission of India cannot order an investigation.
Moreover, he said, there is no provision to challenge the corrupt practice of candidates, who lost the election. Thus, the appeal on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language etc. and promotion of feelings of enmity between different classes cannot be questioned even by way of election petition, in such cases.
He asserted that even the Goswami Committee on Electoral Reform in its Report in 1990 had suggested empowering the Election Commission to prosecute any person who commits an electoral offence.
In this backdrop, Upadhyay has prayed that the Government of India be directed to take appropriate steps to implement the recommendations of Law Commission Report No-267.
The Petitioner will be represented by Advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey.
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