Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Top Stories

"Where Is Our Nation Headed?", Supreme Court Expresses Concern About Hate Speech In Media, Asks Why Centre Is Standing As "Mute Witness"?

Deepankar Malviya
21 Sep 2022 12:24 PM GMT
Hate Speech Supreme Court Equality Right Amish Devgan
The role of the anchor is very important in controlling hate speech in channel debates, the Court said.

"Where is our nation headed", asked the Supreme Court orally on Wednesday expressing deep concerns at the hate speeches in the media going unregulated. Stressing on the need to have a firm regulatory mechanism against hate speech, the Court asked the Government of India "why it is standing as a mute witness when all this is happening".

A bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a batch of eleven writ petitions which seek the directions to regulate hate speech. Among the batch were petitions filed against the "UPSC Jihad" show aired by Sudarshan News TV, speeches made at Dharam Sansad meetings, and pleas seeking regulation of social media messages communalising COVID pandemic.

Centre asked to make its stand clear on Law Commission's recommendations

"What are the provisions of law which relates to Hate Speech in India?", Justice Joseph asked when the hearing started. Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, one of the petitioners, informed the Court that a reply has been received from the Election Commission where it was suggested that amendments incorporating specific provision are required. He also informed the court that Hate Speech and Rumour Mongering are not defined under any law.

Justice Joseph also asked the Government of India regarding its response and asked why it was remaining a mute witness . He suggested that the government should come forward to put in place an institution which will be abided by all.

The Court directed the Government of India to file its response. Further, the Court directed the Government to clarify whether it proposes to act on the recommendations of the Law Commission of India regarding amendments to deal with hate crimes.

The Centre informed that of all the 29 states, only 14 states have given a response. The Court allowed the States to file independent replies. The Court also asked Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde to collate the responses of the States.

TV anchors play an important role

Justice K. M. Joseph during the hearing made an observation regarding the Television Channels - "The role of the anchor is very important. Hate speech either it takes place in the mainstream television or it takes place in the social media. Social Media is largely unregulated….As far as mainstream television channel is concerned, we still hold sway, there the role of anchor is very critical because the moment you see somebody going into hate speech, it's the duty of the anchor to immediately see that he doesn't allow that person to say anything further. Unfortunately, many a times somebody wants to say something he is muted, person is not given proper time, he is not even treated courteously"

"Freedom of expression of the press, we don't have it separately unlike the US….there should be free debate no doubt about it but, you should also know where to draw the line because there is a huge influence particularly with the visual media….they produce a very serious effect on your brain. The freedom is for the listener. The freedom of speech is actually for the benefit of the listener. How would the listener ever make up his mind after listening to a debate where it is just a babble of voice, you cannot even make out what is happening", he added

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde stated that, "the industry is unregulated and there are no sanctions" to which Ashwini Upadhyay replied, "Until hate speech is defined this will go on."

Justice Joseph observed, "We should have a proper legal framework unless we will have a framework people will continue and the most important point is where is our nation headed, if it is hate speech on which we are feeding on where is our nation headed".

Hate speech poisons the very fabric, can't be permitted

"Political parties will come and go but the nation will endure the institution including press, it is important part, without a totally independent press no country can go forward, its absolutely important that we have true freedom, there", Justice Joseph orally stated.

"Hate Speech completely poisons the very fabric…It cannot be permitted", Justice Joseph added.

Regulatory mechanism needed

Stressing on the need for a regulatory mechanism, Justice Joseph continued : "The problem is we don't have a regulatory mechanism for TV. I believe that all channels were fined heavily in England. We don't have that system here. Law means sanction, sanctions must be effected…the problem is that they are not being dealt with firmly. If sanctions are effected this will go… Any anchor will have his own views, any anchor will not diverse from the view the channel is taking, they will all be intertwined, you cant divulge from it, but what is wrong is when you have people of different views you are calling them and you are not allowing them to express those views….in doing that you are bringing hate and your TRP is going up and you are driven by that and nobody is going to look into it and take care of it then it is very sad".

The bench has posted the cases for disposal on November 23.

Case Title : Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India - WP (C) 943/2021, Syeda Hameed vs Union of India, Kazeem Ahmad Sherwani vs State of Uttar Pradesh,Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind vs Union of India, Qurban Ali vs Union of India, SG Vombatkere vs UOI and other matters.

Next Story