New Delhi: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to issue notice to Kerala government on a publicly available hate speech clip against Hindus and Christians, and also cited absence of action taken against a DMK spokesperson in Tamil Nadu for allegedly making a hate speech against Brahmins.
The top court stressed that the moment politics and religion are segregated, then politicians will stop using religion and “the moment politicians stop playing games, the whole thing will go”.
Mehta submitted before a bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph that a spokesperson of the DMK, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, on TV made a hate speech against Brahmins and the man does not even face an FIR and he continues to be a spokesperson of a recognised political party.
He also sought the court’s permission to play a clip from Kerala, publicly available, where hate speech was made against Hindus and Christians at a Popular Front of India (PFI) rally. Recently, a tribunal constituted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) rejected the argument that the PFI and its seven affiliates were banned for political gains with an ulterior motive.
“This should shock the conscience of the court that such a thing has happened,” Mehta said, adding that Kerala-based petitioner Shaheen Abdullah is not bringing this fact, where a child was used to make the statement, to the notice of the court.
In the context of the Kerala clip, Justice Joseph said: “We know that.”
Mehta then said that if lordships know that, then the court should have taken suo moto cognisance of this incident along with contempt petition filed by the petitioner regarding hate speech made at rallies in Maharashtra.
During the hearing, Justice Joseph remarked: “State is impotent”. Mehta immediately retorted: “Can’t say that about any State but Centre is not. The Centre has banned PFI. Please issue notice to the State of Kerala so that they can respond to this.”
The bench, also comprising Justice B.V. Nagarathna, orally observed: “Why is it, after the enforcement of the Constitution for the first few decades, such kind of speeches were never there in India.” But Mehta said: “This kind of speeches have always been there; your lordships have taken cognizance recently.”
Justice Nagarathna said the idea of fraternity was so much there, “we are sorry to say, now cracks have come in… I am saying there must be restraint on every citizen with this, hate speech will go… why as a society we are not having restraint”.
Mehta said it should happen across religions and the petitioner should bring on record facts from other religions in other states too.
The bench said it will appreciate it when the state comes up with a mechanism, where hate speeches are curbed in the society. Mehta said a mechanism already exists, there is an offence, the police station takes it up and there is judgment in Tehseen Poonawala, but people move the court selectively.
Justice Joseph said: “I dare say, I say this in the public interest and interest of the nation that the moment politicians stop playing games, the whole thing will go. The moment politics and religion are segregated, the politicians will stop using religion… See the deep connect between religion and politics.”
Mehta did not agree with Justice Joseph’s oral observation and urged him to hear the clip from Kerala, while stressing that the clip has no politics in it and it is a pure and simple religious hate speech. But the judge did not agree to play the video clip from Kerala.
After hearing a detailed argument, the bench did not issue notice to Kerala on the video clip and the DMK spokesperson statement cited by Mehta, instead, issued notice to the Maharashtra government on Abdullah’s plea seeking contempt action for failing to rein hate speeches by Hindu organisations despite apex court orders.
On Tuesday, Mehta had vehemently submitted that why petitioner is targeting one community in one particular state? He added that if he is genuinely public spirited, he must bring on record all instances of hate speeches across the country, irrespective of religion and state. Advocate Nizam Pasha represented the petitioner in the apex court.
The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on April 28. At the end of the hearing, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, representing the Maharashtra government, submitted: “Why to keep sword of contempt hanging?”
To this, Justice Joseph said the court will have to keep it and “we are following the Constitution and orders in every case is bricks in the structure of rule of law…”