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‘India a Secular Nation, Take Action on Hate Speeches’: SC to 3 Northern States

The apex court ordered the state administrations to take suo moto action and promptly register criminal cases against the culprits.
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Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday noted that the Constitution of India envisages a secular nation and directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to take action on hate speeches.

The Constitution of India envisages a secular nation and fraternity among citizens assuring the dignity of the individual...The unity and integrity of the nation is one of the guiding principles enshrined in the preamble,” the Supreme Court said. “There cannot be fraternity unless the members of the community from different religions are able to live in harmony,” it added. 

 The bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a petition filed by journalist Shaheen Abdullaseeking the top court’s urgent intervention to stop targeting of the Muslim community.

 The apex court ordered the state administrations to take suo moto action and promptly register criminal cases against the culprits instead of waiting for a complaint to be filed.This has to be done “so that the secular character of this country as envisaged in the preamble is maintained,” the court said.

 The apex court warned that if there is delay on the part of the administration in taking action on this "very serious issue", it will attract the court's contempt.

 It further said, “The petitioner points out despite various penal provisions, no action has been taken and there is a need to serve constitutional principles. We feel this court is charged with a duty to protect the fundamental rights and also protect and serve the constitution where the rule of law is maintained.”

 "Article 51A says we should develop a scientific temper. And where have we reached in the name of religion? It is tragic", Justice Joseph remarked during the hearing, according to the LiveLaw. 

 Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioner, pointed out that neither the administration nor the Supreme Court have been taking action despite multiple complaints raised regarding hate speech; the authorities have only called for status reports.

 "Silence certainly is not an answer. Not on our part, not on the court's part", Sibal was quoted as saying by the LiveLaw.  

 Senior Advocate Sibal presented before the bench certain statements made by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Parvesh Varma. Sibal said that Varma had said at an event in Delhi to not encourage Muslim shop owners and that "their throats would be slit" if needed.

 The bench expressed shock at this and asked whether Muslims were also involved in hate speeches, to which Sibal asked rhetorically whether they would be spared after hate speech. He added that everyone should be dealt with strictly under the law, the report said.

 Noting that such statements (such as Varma’s) were “disturbing”, for a democratic country, Justice Roy said that only statements against one community were brought before the court and the Apex Court cannot be seen as an institution to target anyone. "These kind of statements by anyone is condemnable", Justice Roy added, according to LiveLaw. 

 The petitioner had sought direction to the Union of India and the state governments to initiate independent, credible and impartial investigation into the incidents of hate crimes and hate speeches. He added that the speakers or the parties who organise such events where  genocidal and hateful speeches are delivered face no repercussions. "In most cases, minimal action of merely registering FIRs and that too under lesser offences, the petition added, according to the LiveLaw report.

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