Supreme Court slams ‘silence of state’ on ‘vicious circle’ of hate against minorities

“The moment religion is separated from politics, all this will stop,” says Justice Joseph

Updated - March 30, 2023 07:54 am IST

Published - March 29, 2023 08:58 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Supreme Court of India. File.

Supreme Court of India. File. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on March 29 slammed the “silence of the state” to spiralling incidents of hate speeches made against minority communities, including Muslims, but the Centre pushed back, asking the court why it did not take suo motu cognisance of a video clip from Kerala showing a child being made to threaten Hindus and even Christians.

When a Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna asked the Maharashtra government for an explanation about hate speech incidents in the State, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the court to take a moment and see what was happening in other States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

“A spokesperson of DMK party says that if you want equality you should butcher all the Brahmins.... No FIR has been registered. He continues to be a spokesperson of the party… Now, please hear this clip from Kerala. This is shocking. It should shock the conscience of this court. A child has been made to say this. We should be embarrassed. He says ‘Hindus and Christians should prepare for final rites’,” Mr. Mehta addressed the court.

“Yes, we know,” Justice Joseph responded.

“Then Your Lordships should have taken suo motu cognisance,” Mr. Mehta said.

Justice Joseph said the country was caught in a “vicious circle of hate” and the solution lay in expunging religion from politics.

“The moment religion is separated from politics, all this will stop,” Justice Joseph said.

But Mr. Mehta refused to agree that hate had anything to do with politics.

“No, this has everything to do with politics. Politicians make use of religion,” Justice Joseph stood firm.

Justice Nagarathna said hate speeches have made cracks in the idea of fraternity. She said hate speeches were made by “fringe elements” of all sides who have “no stuff in them”.

Also read |If you ignore hate crime, it will come on to you one day: Supreme Court

“When Vajpayee and Nehru spoke, people came from rural areas to hear them… Unfortunately now, people with no stuff in them, fringe elements from every side are making these hate speeches… where are you taking India? Now are we going to start taking contempt action against every person in India… where are we taking this court… is there no restraint on freedom of speech… If there is intellectual deprivation, you can never take this country to the number one position in the world. Intellectual deprivation comes only when there is intolerance, lack of knowledge and lack of education. That is where we should concentrate first… We should as a society take a pledge to restrain ourselves from saying these things,” Justice Nagarathna said.

Justice Joseph said “before we think of trying to be a superpower, we should first follow the rule of law”.

The court said hate speech strikes a mortal blow to dignity.

“The most important thing is dignity. If it is demolished on a regular basis… look at the statements being made ‘Go to Pakistan’... They are people who chose this country. They are like your brothers and sisters. Remember what you pledged in school ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters… Maybe I am too old-fashioned… I am retiring in four months, turning 65… Seventy-five years ago we as a nation started a journey. Our objective was to be a country that will follow the rule of law… We should never go down to that level of hate,” Justice Joseph said.

To this, advocate P.V. Yogeshwaran, appearing for a Hindu party, assured “it will never be as long as my client is the majority in this country”.

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