Let Public Decide on Hate Speeches During Polls: SC
The Supreme Court has said it would not intervene to stop politicians from delivering hate speeches and said India is a mature democracy and there was space for all shades of opinion during the election campaigning before people make a final choice.
“We are a country of 128 crore people and there may be 128 crore views. This is the maturity of a democracy. For a person making such a speech, it may not be hate speech,” said a Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said.
The court’s observation came on a PIL requesting it to instruct the Election Commission to prevent politicians from making hate speeches and make promises designed to influence voters, and candidates should also file affidavits at the time of filing nomination papers to undertake that they would not resort to hate speech during their campaigns.
“Let all shades of opinion come before the public. Let them decide. Freedom of speech is a precious right given by the Constitution. Don’t suggest steps to restrict it,” the Bench observed. The petitioner stated that he was not asking for something that was not there in law but only asking all political parties and candidates to swear an affidavit that they would not indulge in hate speech during the electioneering.
Sharma has sought direction to the Election Commission to launch the prosecution of people under Section 153A of the IPC for making hate speeches.
The Section seeks to punish those who promote enmity among different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and do acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
“The freedom of expression is always subject to reasonable restrictions and if an individual is given power to enforce reasonable restrictions then entire freedom will go,” the court said. Brushing aside the plea, the court said instead of protecting the freedom of speech, the petitioner was seeking to curb it. “Who will decide the reasonable restrictions, will it be decided by M L Sharma?” it said.
The PIL had also sought direction that none of the candidates contesting the elections would avail foreign funds or services.