Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India
(2014) 11 SCC 477
In the Supreme Court of India
W.P. (C) 157/2013
Before Justice Dr B.S. Chauhan, Justice M.Y. Eqbal, and Justice Dr A.K. Sikri
Decided on March 12, 2014
Relevancy of the case: Issuing guidelines for curbing hate speech
Statutes & Provisions Involved
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 66A, 69, 69A)
- The Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Section 8, 123 (3-A), 125)
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 124A, 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 505(1), 505(2))
- The Constitution of India, 1950 (Article 32, 226, 51A, 19(1)(a), 19(2))
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 95, 107, 144, 160)
- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (Section 2(f), 10, 11, 12)
- The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (Section 7(1)(c))
- The Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988 (Section 3, 6)
- The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (Section 5, 6, 11, 12, 16, 17, 19, 20)
- The Cinematograph Act, 1952 (Section 4, 5B, 7)
Relevant Facts of the Case
- This writ petition is filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to curb the threat caused by the hate speeches made by the political or religious leaders and people’ representatives based on the caste, religion, sex, birth, etc. of an individual.
Prominent Arguments by the Advocates
The petitioner’s counsel:
- The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the law which exists at present is not sufficient to deal with the menace of hate speeches. The relief which the petitioner requires is aligned with the provisions of the Constitution. Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution were violated by the religious leaders, political leaders, and elected representatives by delivering hate speeches which were based on caste, religion, or ethnicity and were also not in consonance with the fundamental duties under Article 51A of the Constitution. It was argued that the court should not remain silent on such events. It should invoke Article 142 of the Constitution since the existing legal framework is not adequate to curb the menace of hate speeches.
The respondent’s counsel:
- The learned counsels for the State submitted that various provisions in different statutes deal with the issue involved. The aggrieved party can seek legal remedies under any of these provisions. In the present case, the question is regarding the application and enforcement of the law. It was submitted some issues were framed by the present court and the matter was referred to the Law Commission of India to analyze relevant provisions. It was suggested that the court should not act as super-legislature since there is a deficiency in the law and the court can make suggestions to the Law Commission.
Opinion of the Bench
- To curb the menace of hate speech, there are various statutory provisions and particularly the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The aggrieved party should resort to the remedies available in those statutes and provisions. The main problem in the case is the lack of effective execution and not the absence of statutory provisions. The civil society along with the executive should enforce the already existing legal regime. In consonance with salus reipunlicae suprema lex, the enforcement should be done.
- There is no need to entertain the petition which calls for issuing guidelines which are not capable of execution. To carry out a study on the Election Commission’s power, the copy of the judgement is sent to the Law Commission for further examination and to make recommendations to Parliament to curb the menace of hate speech and to define the term hate speeches. Any order which is judicially unmanageable and not capable of enforcement should not be passed by the court.
- The court held that a copy of the judgement of the present case will be provided to the Hon’ble Chairman of Law Commission of India for further study.
- The writ petition stands disposed of.
This case summary has been prepared by Afsana Khan, an undergraduate student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad, during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in June/July 2020.