The Supreme Court on Friday warned against the dangers stemming from hate speech, directing the authorities to act suo moto against offenders without waiting for formal complaints. Given the rising incidence of hate-mongering in the polity, the apex court’s stern direction should have a salutary effect on the usual suspects in the political and social spheres who are prone to sow divisions in society for their own partisan ends. Hearing a petition by a Kerala resident which specifically pointed out the speeches made at the Virat Hindu Sabha in Delhi earlier in October, and other such anti-Muslim utterances at some Dharam Sansad events, a bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said the police must take action irrespective of the religion of the offender.
Without doubt, the frequency of hate speeches in recent years has increased manifold, with the polity now virtually divided on communal lines. Aggressive championing of one faith elicits an equally strong counter-response from the followers of the other faith. In the fiercely competitive political bazaar, the extremists of both the majority and the minority religions have come to hold a bitter and hateful sway over their respective communities. It is plain that the division between the religious faiths has become sharper in recent years, allowing the hate-mongers on both sides to have a field day.
Hate incites violence and discrimination. Peaceful debate and dialogue has increasingly yielded space to trading of plain abuse and vendetta, leaving the two communities arrayed against each other. Extremists on both sides of the religious divide often incite violence in their speeches, causing a law and order problem for the authorities. There are enough provisions in law to act against the culprits inciting hate but the police are known to act rarely, especially when the offender is connected with the ruling party. The SC direction to the police to act on its own even if no complaint is filed should not remain confined to the lodging of a formal complaint without any follow-up action. Such non-action on its part will be construed as contempt of court, the judges warned.
Hopefully, leaders of various parties will impress on their followers to desist from raising communal passions. Aggressive counter-speech by hotheads in the minority community too needs to be curbed. There being a close link between hate speeches and violence, it is important for religious extremists on both sides to moderate their words and actions in order for peace to prevail all around. The apex court direction should be heeded by all concerned.
Question mark over Imran’s future
On a day Pakistan finally got off the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force, allowing it to access funding from multilateral institutions, its polity was thrown into further chaos following the disqualification of Imran Khan from holding public office on grounds of corrupt electoral practices. The charge against the former cricketer-turned-politician is that he profited from the sale of expensive gifts illegally retained by him instead of being deposited in the toshakhana. Among the gifts were seven wrist watches, including a rare Master Graf limited edition watch valued at nearly $4 lakh. Acting on a complaint by a leading member of the Muslim League (Nawaz), the EC found Imran guilty of “making false statements and incorrect declarations” in his affidavit. In a way it was poetic justice, for five years ago it was on Imran’s complaint that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified after his name surfaced in the Panama Papers. Mr Khan will challenge his disqualification in the Supreme Court, but whether he will get relief remains unclear given the facts of the case against him. Besides, the all-powerful army is now antagonistic and may well thwart his effort to stage a comeback. Though the ruling coalition is crisis-ridden, and remains unpopular, Mr Khan’s aggressive stance against both the army and America seems to have become a stumbling block in his return to power. Pakistan is at a crossroads now, with its economy in doldrums and the currency touching new lows. The EC disqualification could not have come at a worse time for the former playboy-turned-politician.