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Elected representatives must act responsibly: Delhi HC on hate speech

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New Delhi, Jun 13: The Delhi High Court on Monday rejected the plea of CPM's Brinda Karat to allow a police case against BJP MPs Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma today over alleged hate speech delivered in 2020 during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Anurag Thakur

Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, while noting that there have been instances of hate speeches which led to demographic shifts in the country in their aftermath, stated that mass leaders and those occupying high offices must conduct themselves with utmost integrity and responsibility and it does not befit or behove the leaders to indulge in acts or speeches that cause rifts amongst communities, create tensions, and disrupt the social fabric in the society.

The judge said elected leaders in a democracy owe their responsibility not only to their electorate but also towards the society and nation as a whole and ultimately to the Constitution.

"Hate speeches especially delivered by elected representatives, political and religious leaders based on religion, caste, region or ethnicity militate against the concept of fraternity, bulldoze the constitutional ethos, and violates Articles 14, 15, 19, 21 read with Article 38 of the Constitution and is in blatant derogation of the fundamental duties prescribed under Article 51-A (a), (b), (c), (e), (f), (i), (j) of the Constitution and therefore warrant stringent peremptory action on the part of Central and State Governments," said the court.

"There have been and there continue to be instances of hate speeches in different parts of the country targeted against people of specific communities, based upon the demographic composition. There have even been instances of demographic shifts in the aftermath of such Hate/Inflammatory speeches, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir valley is a prime example," the court stated.

The court's observations were made while dismissing a petition by CPI(M) leaders Brinda Karat and KM Tiwari challenging the trial court's refusal to direct the registration of an FIR against Union Minister Anurag Thakur and his BJP colleague and MP Pravesh Verma for their alleged hate speeches concerning anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh here.

The court refused to interfere with the trial court's order on the ground that under the law, the requisite sanction is required to be obtained from the competent authority for the registration of FIR in the present facts.

In its 66-page order, the court asserted that hate speeches incite violence and feelings of resentment against members of specific communities, which causes fear and feeling of insecurity in the minds of the members of those communities.

It noted that while statutory provisions and penal law provide sufficient remedy to curb the menace of "hate speeches", the executive as well as civil society has to perform its role in enforcing the already existing legal regime.

"Effective regulation of 'hate speeches' at all levels is required and all the law enforcing agencies must ensure that the existing law is not rendered a dead letter," the court said.

The court also quoted a shloka from Bhagwad Gita to emphasise that "whatever action is performed by a leader, common men follow in his footsteps; and whatever standards he sets by his acts, are pursued by his subjects".

The court further said that the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution comes with reasonable restrictions which include public order, decency or morality or concerning contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offence.

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