Voicing concern over hate speeches by politicians and religious leaders, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Central and State governments to show courage and take penal action in such cases.

The apex court said there was a need for taking concrete steps to curb such speeches and the Centre should ask State governments to apply penal provisions in dealing with those delivering such speeches.

A PIL said there was a need for guidelines as hate speeches destroy the fabric of democracy and violate provisions of the Constitution.

It named Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as respondents with the States witnessing incidents of alleged hate speeches.

In AP, MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi was held for allegedly making hate speeches. But after being released on bail, he again made similar speeches in Nanded, it alleged.

It also referred to alleged hate speeches made by MNS chief Raj Thackeray and claimed no FIR was registered against him.

“These are not good for common people…some steps have to be taken,” a Bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and justices Vikramajit Sen and Sharad Arvind Bobde said.

Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra said the issue falls in the domain of State governments and it was for them to take action.

The Election Commission said it has made recommendations for amendment to the Representation of People Act to deal with such issues. Advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the EC, said if those suggestions are accepted then the Commission could take action against the registered political parties. During the hearing, the Bench said the averments and prayers made in the PIL reflect the anguish of the people against the hate speeches by politicians and leaders of social and religious organisations. The bench said there are penal provisions and state governments should take action under them.

Sanjay Kharde, counsel for Maharashtra Government, said action has been taken and five FIRs have been registered against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Chief Raj Thackeray. The Bench posted the matter for May 7 giving liberty to the petitioner to make those States as respondent which are yet to be made party in the petition.

The Supreme Court on April 8 had sought response from the Centre and governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh which, in recent times, witnessed a spate of alleged hate speeches. The PIL, argued by senior advocate Basava Patil, had submitted that speeches targeting religion, region, caste or place of birth were against the provisions of the Constitution.

The bench had also sought response from the Election Commission on the issue.

— PTI

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