Hate Speech, Freedom Of Expression And Verdict Of Apex Court

The Supreme Court said in an important decision on Tuesday that no restrictions can be imposed on freedom of expression in addition to the restrictions already imposed under Article 19 (2). 

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court made it clear that even the statements of ministers and MPs-MLAs cannot necessarily be taken as the view of the government. 

The case, however, pertains to a 2016 rape incident in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, which was termed as a political conspiracy by Samajwadi Party leader and then minister in the UP government, Azam Khan. 

Azam Khan has unconditionally apologized for that statement, but an important question had come before the court whether there is a need for any guidelines regarding issuing such statements by persons holding responsible positions.

The five-judge bench agreed that it would not be right to obstruct freedom of expression by imposing further restrictions apart from the legal provisions that already exist. 

But the way Justice BV Nagaratna made a special mention of hate speech while recording her separate judgment in the same matter is worth noting. 

For some time now, there has been an increase in the tendency of people holding responsible positions and active in public life to issue hate statements, which weakens the feeling of brotherhood in the society. 

Justice Nagaratna rightly said that these people need to understand how dangerous the consequences of what they are doing can be. 

However, she also left the question of taking any initiative in this regard or making a new law etc. to the discretion of the Parliament, which is appropriate.

In a parliamentary democracy, all the three major organs of governance have their own limits. 

Judiciary can strengthen the spirit of constitutional morality in the country only by respecting the jurisdiction of the legislature and the executive. 

But a big question is whether the Parliament will take any such initiative from its side and even if such an initiative is taken from any corner, will it reach its logical conclusion. 

There is no doubt that political parties and parliamentarians are under pressure from the mood of their voter groups and the current political situation does not give much hope, but democracy moves in the midst of these immediate pressures and it is often from among them that big positive changes take place.

However, the way this bench of five judges of the Supreme Court has underlined the importance of freedom of expression in its latest decision is also worth remembering.

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