India’s top court says hate speeches need to be curbed as they ‘sully country’s atmosphere’

File. Indian flag  (AP)
File. Indian flag (AP)

India’s top court on Monday observed that hate speeches against minorities sullied the “entire atmosphere” of the country and needed to be curbed.

The Supreme Court, however, also added that it needed specific instances of such speeches and cannot act on vague and general submissions.

The bench led by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit asked petitioner-in-person Harpreet Mansukhani to focus on specific instances of hate speech, the local media reported.

The petitioner had claimed that hate speeches were being made against the minority community “to win the majority Hindu votes, to grab power at all costs, to commit genocide and make India a Hindu Rashtra [Hindu country] before 2024 elections”.

Ms Manshukhani also told the court that “hate speech has been turned into a profitable business”. She even claimed that she had proof that a certain political party had funded a controversial Hindi Bollywood film, “The Kashmir Files”, that depicted the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley. The film has been accused of fanning anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmiri hatred in the country.

The judges told the petitioner: “You may be right, perhaps, in saying that the entire atmosphere is being sullied as a result of hate speeches. Perhaps you have every justifiable ground to say that this needs to be curbed.” But “this is too random a petition saying that there are 58 instances where someone made a hate speech. Rather than giving us a vague idea, you concentrate on immediate instances”.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, the Supreme Court asked the governments of Uttarakhand and Delhi about what action their police had taken against those who made hate speeches at several religious events, called “Dharam Sansads”.

This comes a day after the Delhi Police said it filed a case against the far-right organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organisers of the religious “Dharam Sansad” events.

In India, hate speech has not been defined in any law but “legal provisions in certain legislations prohibit select forms of speech as an exception to freedom of speech”. 

Meanwhile, Ms Mansukhani said: “Every time a hate speech is given, it is like an arrow which never returns”.

The court will hear the plea on 1 November.