“Hate speech not under ambit of freedom of speech” : Asiaville Editor-in-Chief Sashi Kumar files intervention plea in Sudarshan TV case
The Supreme Court is hearing a plea which alleged that the show 'Bindas Bol' hosted by Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News channel, was communalising the entry of Muslims into the civil services. The court, on September 15, had stayed the telecast of the show after making a prima facie observation that “the object intent and the purpose of the show was to vilify the Muslim community.”
Asking the court to make a clear distinction between hate speech and free speech, Asiaville Editor-in-Chief Sashi Kumar on Wednesday filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court in the ongoing case against Sudarshan TV for telecasting a show titled 'Bindass Bol' -- where the channel tried to portray a “jihadi conspiracy” by Muslims to “infiltrate” India’s civil service.
Sashi Kumar, in his intervention application, argued that speech, publication or telecast which can be described as hate speech and is an offence under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code can’t fall under the right to freedom of speech protected under Article 19 of the constitution.
“It is an irony that instances of publications and telecasts which amount to an offence under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code (of creating communal disharmony and hatred between communities or groups) are sought to be protected under Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution by the majoritarian forces,” the application read.
Appearing for Kumar, advocate Kaleeswaram Raj sought time to address the court in tune with the line of argument of the petition. The Apex Court bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph agreed to allow him time to make his submission before the court.
“It is not possible either for the state or for the private players to justify a speech amounting to an offence in the guise of religious freedom or free speech. It is important to guard against State not only when it curtails the freedom of speech but also when it encourages hate speech in the guise of freedom of expression which is clearly against the ideology of the Constitution,” the petition read.
Speaking to Asiaville, advocate Raj said, “Hate speech doesn’t fall under the ambit of freedom of expression, which is guaranteed under the Constitution. Hate speech is a different category altogether and it doesn’t have constitutional protection. Offences which fall under some sections of the IPC or other special enactments, cannot be played saying ‘freedom of speech and expression’- contemplated under article 19 1(A) of the constitution.”
Raj also said that the petition not only demands a clear distinction between hate speech and free speech but also makes a nuanced argument for a free media.
“The application demands that, on one hand, the right to free speech of responsible media must be protected. And on the other, those dabbling in hate speech must be separated from the right guaranteed under the Constitution,” said Raj.
During the hearing of the case today, the Centre told the court that the Sudarshan TV programme violated programme code and a show cause notice has been issued to them.
The channel has to respond on the issue by September 28 defending itself on the allegations of violating the programme code.
The Information and Broadcasting ministry's guidelines of Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 says no programme should be carried which "contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes".
In response to the Centre's plea that the hearing be deferred till the channel responds, the court said it would hear the matter again on October 5. The freeze on the programme will continue till then.
The Supreme Court is hearing a plea which alleged that the show 'Bindas Bol' hosted by Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News, was communalizing the entry of Muslims into the civil services.
In an order delivered on August 28, when the Court said that it must be circumspect in imposing any prior restraint on speech, especially since statutory authorities were vested with powers to ensure compliance of the law.
But on September 15, the court had stayed the telecast of the show after making a prima facie observation that “the object intent and the purpose of the show was to vilify the Muslim community.”
"You cannot target one community and brand them in a particular manner," the top court had said, put a temporary stop to the show.