The Supreme Court of India has been at the forefront of addressing hate speech and mob violence, showcasing a relentless commitment to mitigate these societal menaces through an array of directives and legal interventions. In the case of Shaheen Abdullah v. Union of India & Ors., the judiciary has diligently pursued measures to tackle hate speech and mob-related crimes, aligning with constitutional provisions and legal mandates aimed at preserving social harmony and the rule of law in India.
In response to a series of petitions seeking action to curb hate speech, the Centre informed the Supreme Court about the appointment of nodal officers in 28 states, in accordance with the ‘Tehseen Poonawalla case’ guidelines. These guidelines were designed to deter mob violence and address hate speech, emphasizing the significance of having designated officers at the district level to prevent incidents of mob lynching.
The Court, in its prior hearings, directed state governments to comply with the 2018 guidelines mandating the appointment of district-level nodal officers to curb mob lynching. Urging compliance, the Court directed the Home Ministry to collect information from states and submit a comprehensive status report within a stipulated timeframe. Non-compliance by any state was to be duly recorded in the report, underscoring the gravity of adherence to these directives.
Highlighting the importance of legislative action, the Supreme Court, in its landmark judgment dated July 17, 2021, recommended the creation of a dedicated law against lynching. This underscored the need for legal deterrence in combating such heinous crimes and emphasized the pivotal role of societal reverence for the law in a civilized society.
Furthering its efforts, the Court proposed the establishment of special committees led by district police chiefs. These committees were envisioned to promptly evaluate hate speech complaints, offering guidance to investigating officers or the chief of jurisdictional police stations. This mechanism ensured swift action and periodic reviews of ongoing cases, aiming to expedite the process of addressing hate speech incidents and maintaining vigilance against potential communal discord.
An essential aspect of these directives is the accessibility granted to aggrieved petitioners. The Supreme Court allowed individuals to approach the designated nodal police officers, as per the Tehseen Poonawalla judgment. This direct channel provides an avenue for affected individuals to seek redressal against hate speech incidents, emphasizing the Court’s commitment to ensuring swift and accessible justice.
The ongoing proceedings of *Shaheen Abdullah v. Union of India & Ors.*, presided over by a bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, encapsulate a range of petitions seeking actions against hate speeches and measures to prevent communal discord. The Court’s proactive stance reflects its dedication to upholding constitutional values, promoting social cohesion, and safeguarding the rule of law, pivotal in fostering a peaceful and inclusive society.
Examining the legal framework concerning hate speech in India, several provisions within the constitutional and statutory frameworks aim to curtail hate speech and promote communal harmony. Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution provides for reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression to prevent the incitement of violence or public disorder. Additionally, sections within the Indian Penal Code (IPC), such as Sections 153A, 295A, 298, and 505, address hate speech, promoting enmity between different groups, insulting religious beliefs, and creating communal disharmony.
The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) enables the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) for cognizable offenses, including hate speech, facilitating legal action against offenders. Furthermore, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, aim to regulate digital platforms, incorporating provisions to combat hate speech and unlawful content dissemination.
At last, the Supreme Court’s persistent efforts, as evidenced in the present care, exemplify its proactive role in addressing hate speech and mob violence. Through directives, recommendations, and the emphasis on legal measures, the judiciary endeavors to safeguard societal harmony, promote the rule of law, and provide accessible avenues for justice in addressing hate speech incidents and preventing communal discord.