Expressing concern over the cracks surfacing in the “sense of fraternity” amongst the people because of unchecked hate mongering, the Supreme Court on Wednesday sought Maharashtra government’s response to a contempt petition for failing to take action against those engaged in making hate speeches targeting a community at the gatherings across the state in the teeth of the top court’s directions.
Giving four weeks’ time to the Maharashtra government to file its reply to the contempt petition and posting the matter for hearing on April 28, a bench of Justice K M Joseph and Justice B V Nagarathna said, “We are sorry to say that cracks are now coming in the sense of fraternity” while seeking to put in place a mechanism to curb such instances.
Emphasising the segregation of politics and religion, Justice Joseph said that “the day politicians stop using religion all this will go. Hate speech is a vicious circle, and the State will have to initiate action”.
Justice Joseph further said, “We were all handed down a legacy. What is tolerance? Tolerance is not putting up with somebody but accepting the differences….”
“Let the state come with a mechanism to curb such instances,” Justice Nagarathna said asking “Why can’t people take a pledge not to vilify other communities. Why cannot we take a pledge to restrain ourselves? Where we are taking the country?
Referring to JawaharLal Nehru’s famous “Tryst with Destiny speech… At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom” and couplets of Atal Bihari Vajpayee which people from rural areas used to come to hear, Justice Nagarathna said that “for a few decades after independence there were never such speeches as is happening now, there are cracks surfacing, …”
Disagreeing with Justice Nagarathna, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it was always there. Opting for a counter offensive, the Solicitor General referred to instances of hate speech in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and wanted the court to take note of it. He said that the “public spirited” petitioner from Kerala should act even-handed and include in his plea the instances of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
As court sought reply from the Maharashtra government to the contempt petition, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju urged the court not to issue notice. “Why should the sword of contempt be hanging there”, action will be taken by the government.
Justice Joseph said, “You should not forget we are a court of law. Once orders are passed, they have to be implemented. State is not doing anything. State is powerless. Why do we have a State at all, if State is silent. State is powerless.”
Kerala-based Shaheen Abdullah has filed a contempt petition citing news reports that said rallies were being held in Maharashtra in the last few months where hate speeches were being allegedly made, vilifying the Muslims, distorting the Holy Quran. One of the speakers who is a sitting MLA said that India is a Hindu Rashtra.
The contempt petitioner has referred to the Supreme court’s October 21, 2022, direction which had directed that suo motu action will be taken by the authorities against those involved in hate speech and any inaction by the authorities will be contempt of court. The court had lamented that while Article 51A of the constitution calls for the development of scientific temper and humanism, but in the name of religion where we have reached and reduced to.
The court had directed the concerned authorities to issue instructions to the officials to take suo motu cognizance of the hate mongering even in the absence of a specific complaint.
In the said order, the court had said that failure to act against the people involved in making hate speech will be treated as a contempt of the supreme court.
Meanwhile, the apex court also allowed application by Hindu Samaj citing incidents where hate speeches were made against the Hindus.