Suo Moto Complaint In Hate Speech Matters: Why The Apex Court’s Order Could Be Near-Impossible To Comply With

Suo Moto Complaint In Hate Speech Matters: Why The Apex Court’s Order Could Be Near-Impossible To Comply With

by Rudra - Monday, October 31, 2022 04:27 PM IST
Suo Moto Complaint In Hate Speech Matters: Why The Apex Court’s Order Could Be Near-Impossible To Comply WithRepresentative image

Recently, a writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court relating to "the growing climate of hate which is attributable to an unending flow of hate speeches made against the ‘Muslim Community’."

The petitioner contended that despite having suitable provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), no action is being taken against hate speeches. 

The apex court said that it was charged with the duty to protect the fundamental rights and preserve the constitutional values in a secular democracy.

Hence, it directed the police chiefs of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to ensure that, as and when any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A and 505 of the IPC, suo moto action needs to be taken to register cases, even if no complaint is forthcoming.

It also directed them to proceed against the offenders in accordance with law.

The court made it categorically clear that any instance of non-compliance with the aforesaid direction would be viewed as contempt of court. 

Lastly, anticipating the gravity of the matter, the court remarked that suo moto action will be taken irrespective of the religion of the maker of the speech, so that the secular character of India as envisaged under the Constitution is preserved. 

The Practical Problems With Enforcing The Order

A bare reading of the aforementioned directions issued by the top court would highlight its perversity. 

The order is unreasonable, ambiguous, discriminatory and almost impossible to comply with. 

Impossible To Comply 

The compliance of the directions made by the Supreme Court to the three states appear to be impossible.

In matters of ‘hate speech’ particular states have been directed to register cases suo moto, which means the police officers have to register complaints on their own, without any formal complaint being filed.

The Supreme Court while passing this order assumes that the police officers know what ‘hate speech’ means and what type of speeches would be categorised as hateful. 

While the higher courts of this country have continuously failed to arrive at a concrete definition of hate speech as under the IPC, here the Supreme Court has directed police officers to register complaints suo moto in matters of ‘hate speech’. 

The compliance of this order would be next to impossible, as the possible counter from police officers would be that they couldn’t determine whether a particular speech was hateful or not. 

Moreover, the court here assumes that the police officers should be mindful of all the public events happening in their jurisdiction. 

While the police officers often register suo moto cases in case of public order disturbance, in cases of hate speeches, public order disturbance may or may not follow. 

The discretion to decide whether a speech is hateful to a particular individual or a section thereof has been vested with the police officers. 

The direction could have been useful if the Supreme Court had issued proper guidelines for the police officers to comply with the directions. 

Additionally, the court had issued sweeping directions to three states for compliance with particular provisions of the IPC. The direction is discriminatory as it is applicable to only three particular states.

If at all direction had to be issued, the Supreme Court being the apex court, should have issued directions to the police chiefs of all the states.

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