Saturday, December 10, 2022

Apex court’s warning

It was indeed something that needs to be seriously addressed when the Supreme Court on October 21 noted that it is “tragic what we have reduced religion to” in the 21st century and a “climate of hate prevails in the country”, while directing police and authorities to immediately and suo motu register cases against hate speech makers without waiting for a complaint to be filed. A Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy ordered that any “hesitation” to comply with the direction would attract the proceedings for contempt of the Supreme Court against the erring officers. Further, the court also directed that First Information Reports (FIRs) should be registered and criminal proceedings initiated against the makers of hate speech “irrespective of their religion so that the secular character of the country is preserved”. The apex court’s interim directions were primarily for the benefit of the police of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The court has issued notices to the three States and asked them to submit reports on action taken on hate speech cases. These three states, which are also come under what is described as Hindi heartland, are witnessing numerous instances where political leaders and ministers of the BJP have been spewing venom-laced hate speeches almost on a day-to-day basis. The communal agenda that has been unleashed across India is not about A versus B but when minister also indulge in it, it has certainly become government versus B and unfortunately, the constitutional guarantee accorded to every India citizen is no longer sacrosanct. This has come about when the BJP’s electoral victories since 2014, and especially after 2019, emboldened party activists and others of the saffron brigade to an extent that they indulge in casual everyday anti-minority actions with the confidence that they have a free hand to do this. Even recently, two spokespersons of the ruling party had glibly peddled hate speech against a community on national television and social media. These were reprehensible acts that continue to shock right thinking citizens but the tragedy is that today, these are not sudden eruptions of bigotry but part of the ruling party’s DNA. What the Supreme Court had ruled on October 21 is that police ought to act immediately and not get bogged down by various interpretations of what constituted ‘hate speech’. The ruling party from the government down to the grass root prefer silence as the baying gets more loud and shrill, even with the so-called dharam sansads advocating no less than mass murder as their religious leaders claim to redeem the majority religion, peddle hate and misogyny. Unless those indulging in such acts are allowed to go unpunished, India will gradually cease to be a pluralistic, secular and vibrant democracy. The Supreme Court on October 21 has only reiterated a prescription to the state governments and the law enforcement to rescue the constitution from the clutches of those who have scant regard for the rule of law.

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