Moment politicians stop using religion in politics, hate speeches will go away: Supreme Court

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  • The top court was specifically dealing with a plea regarding hate speeches being made in Maharashtra by Hindu right wing leaders
  • ‘Every day, fringe elements are making speeches including on TV and public forum to vilify others’
  • Great orators like Nehru and Vajpayee are long gone and hate speeches by fringe elements have instead come to occupy their space’

The Supreme Court on Wednesday lamented the fall in standards of political discourse saying that hate speeches will go away the moment leaders stop using religion in politics.

The moment politics and religions are separated, such speeches will come to an end, said the top court while hearing a contempt petition against various state authorities for failing to register FIRs against those making hate speeches.

A division bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna asked why people cannot restrain themselves. Heading the bench, Justice Joseph observed: “Every day, fringe elements are making speeches including on TV and public forum to vilify others. Why cannot people of India take a pledge to not vilify other citizens or communities?”  He added: “What is tolerance? Tolerance is not putting up with somebody but accepting the differences.”

Justice BV Nagarathna referred to the speeches of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench, “Where are we going? There were orators like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. People from rural areas used to come. Now fringe elements from all sides are making these statements and we are now going to take contempt of court action against all Indians? Intolerance comes from lack of knowledge and education.”

The top court was specifically dealing with a plea regarding hate speeches being made in Maharashtra by Hindu right wing leaders. Advocate Nizam Pasha, appearing for the petitioner, said that there have been around ten rallies in Maharashtra which involved hate speech.

Advocate Vishnu Jain, appearing for intervenor Hindu Samaj, said that they have a right to hold religious processions, according to the Bar and Bench. Justice Nagarathna said: “Right to hold procession is fine but what you do in the procession is different.”

“What happens to the minorities and their rights which was envisaged by the founding fathers…we were all handed down a legacy. What is tolerance? Tolerance is not putting up with somebody but accepting the differences,” Justice Joseph weighed in.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, then highlighted instances of hate speech against Hindus in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He insisted that the SC to consider the same as well and not limit itself to Maharashtra and said that the petitioner Shaheen Abdullah has selectively pointed out the incidents of hate speeches in the country.

“Hate speech is a vicious cycle and people will react. State will have to initiate a process,” said Justice Joseph and then asked Maharashtra to file its response to the petition. The court posted the case for further consideration on April 28.

It is to be underlined here that the top court on several occasions dealt upon the issue of hate speeches. On September 21 last year, the court had asked the Union government for its stand as to whether it had contemplated any legislation in terms of the recommendation of the Law Commission of India to add new provisions to the Indian Penal Code to address the menace of hate speech, according to The Leaflet.

Last month, the apex court had directed the Maharashtra government to make arrests, if needed, to prevent hate speeches at a rally called the ‘Sakal Hindu Samaj’ held on February 5 in Mumbai.

Before this, the court on January 13 issued the directions to the DGPs of Maharashtra, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and affirmed that “the secular character of Bharat as is envisaged by the Preamble, [be] preserved and protected.”

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