Pleas on hate speech: SC asks Home Secretary to collate info from states and UTs about compliance

The top court, which was hearing a batch of petitions concerning hate speech and rumour-mongering, said the secretary may collate necessary information by corresponding directly with the secretary of the home department of respective states and UTs within three weeks and compile it state-wise.

PTIUpdated: Thursday, July 21, 2022, 07:13 PM IST
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Supreme Court of India | PTI

The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Secretary of the Union Home Ministry to collate information from states and Union Territories (UTs) regarding the compliance of directions given earlier by the apex court regarding preventive, corrective, and remedial measures to curb untoward situations, like mob violence and hate speech.

The top court, which was hearing a batch of petitions concerning hate speech and rumour-mongering, said the secretary may collate necessary information by corresponding directly with the secretary of the home department of respective states and UTs within three weeks and compile it state-wise.

A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar referred to some previous judgments delivered by the apex court in 2018 and said they specifically provide for a structure and the follow-up action to be taken and the collation of information would reflect how the states and UTs have complied with these directions.

"It is not adversarial," the bench, also comprising Justices A S Oka and J B Pardiwala, orally said.

"The Secretary, Home Department, may collate necessary information by corresponding directly with the Secretary, Home Department, of the respective states/UTs within three weeks and compile the information..," the bench said, adding the state-wise information be placed before it within six weeks.

It observed that the information essentially would be in respect of the status of compliances by the respective states and UTs regarding the directions or observations in these earlier decisions of the apex court to provide for preventive, corrective, and remedial measures for "arresting the untoward situations" which occur and are referred to in the petitions before it.

"Considering the nature of the issue involved and in the backdrop of the general directions issued by this court...we request the Secretary, Home Department, Government of India, to collate necessary information from the respective states/UTs.," the top court said.

The bench asked the concerned secretary of states and UTs to furnish the requisite information upon receipt of communication from the Secretary of the Home Department within two weeks so as to ensure that he would be in a position to compile the necessary information and present it before the court within the specified time.

The bench said the respondents, including the Centre, concerned states, and UTs as well as the Election Commission of India would file a response in the respective writ petitions within three weeks.

It said the matter would come up for hearing after six weeks.

During the hearing, the bench asked the counsel appearing for the petitioners as to whether these matters pertain to different states.

One of the advocates appearing in the matter said the issues pertain to incidents in different states.

The bench, while referring to previous judgements of the apex court, said it would ask the home secretary to compile the information from all the states and UTs about the compliance of those directions.

It said in those judgements, that directions were given concerning preventive, corrective, and remedial measures.

Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, said they can collect information from various states and UTs as to what transpired there and what development has taken place to comply with the apex court directives.

"As the first step, at least this information should be before us. Which states are proactive, which are not acting at all, which have acted partially...," the bench observed.

The counsel appearing for the Election Commission of India (ECI) told the bench that they have been impleaded as a party in one of the petitions, which has sought direction to the Centre to examine international laws and take effective and stringent steps to control hate speech and rumour-mongering in the country, The bench also told ECI not to treat the matter as adversarial and asked the poll panel to step in.

On May 13, the apex court had permitted advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who is one of the petitioners in the matter and has raised the issue of hate speech and rumour-mongering, to implead the ECI as a party.

Upadhyay, in his plea, has alternatively sought a direction to the Centre to take apposite steps to implement recommendations of the Law Commission Report-267 on hate speech.

In a judgement delivered in March 2018, the apex court asserted that illegal activities of 'khap panchayats' have to be stopped completely.

Terming honour crimes as an assault on human dignity and the majesty of the law, the top court had recommended that a law be brought to deal with offences which are "abhorrent to law", as it laid down preventive, remedial, and punitive measures to deal with these crimes.

In July 2018, the top court delivered another verdict and asked the Parliament to consider enacting a new law to sternly deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism.

Later in October 2018, the apex court delivered a judgement in which it had passed a slew of directions to prevent rising incidents of mob violence across the country.

It had observed that the person, who has initiated or instigated any act of violence against cultural programmes resulting in loss of life and damage to public or private property, shall be made liable to compensate the victims of such violence.

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