The Karnataka High Court highlighting hate speech dismissed a writ petition seeking action against media houses and political leaders who allegedly made statements against a minority community observing that ,
“in absence of any specific legislation, it would not be proper for the court to make a substantive analysis or give a concrete definition of hate speech”.
The plea highlighted various clippings of debates conducted by news channels like Times Now, Republic Tv, CNN-News18, statements made on social media platforms and interviews given to news channels by various MPs and MLAs that were alleged to be “hateful”. It was contended that the Respondents had failed to censor such content, resulting in violation of Fundamental Rights, in particular the Right to life and livelihood of various people.
Refusing to indulge in this matter, a division bench of Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice M G Uma said,
“Since the Parliament has not yet thought it appropriate to legislate on the concept of ‘hate speech’ and in the absence of there being any definition of ‘hate speech’ as such, this Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, cannot issue directions merely on the basis of impact of hate speech on the society in general or certain sections of the society in particular.”
The Petitioner-organization had also sought an interim relief in the form of a direction to the DGP and IG of the Karnataka Police to register an FIR in respect of the media reports, which were alleged to be in violation of Section 153A, 153B, 295-A, 298 and 505(2) of IPC.
As regards the prayer for action against media houses, the bench said,
“Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India has recognized ‘Freedom of speech and expression’ which also includes ‘Freedom of the press’. The said freedom is subject to reasonable restrictions as stated in Article 19(2) of the Constitution…Thus, if the State or Union Government feels that there ought to be reasonable restrictions against the Right to Speech and expression, it would have to be justified on the basis of what has been stated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India. Any action to be initiated by the Union or State Government on the exercise of right to freedom of speech and expression, that would be justified within the parameters of Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, is permitted.”
The court added,
“In the present scenario, since the Parliament has not yet thought it appropriate to legislate on the concept of hate speech. In the absence of there being any definition of ‘hate speech’ as such, this Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India cannot issue directions merely on the basis of impact of hate speech on the society in general or certain sections of the society in particular.”
The bench observed that the Central Government had already issued several guidelines to the Private Satellites TV Channels to promote “communal harmony” in the States and Union territories of India.
The bench concluded,
“Thus, it is evident that the Parliament has already provided substantial and effective remedies for protection of persons from hate speech and any aggrieved person can set in motion the criminal law if he is so aggrieved.”
Read the order here: