Hate Speech: Supreme Court issues notice to 5 states, Centre mulls legislation for news channels
While expressing concern over the news channels airing shows that promoted provocative speeches that led to untoward incidents, the Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to five states, seeking their stand on the broader issues projected in the case, while directing the Union government to bring out a legislation to stop such incidents.
The Bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice B.V. Nagarathna directed the Amicus Curiae to submit draft guidelines in the case on the next date of the hearing.
Hearing a batch of petitions seeking steps against hate speech incidents, the Apex Court noted that television channels in India were creating divisions in the society as they were driven by agenda and were competing to sensationalise news, besides acting as per the dictates of their funders.
Stating that Freedom of Speech and Expression was important, the Bench said the problem with freedom was that the audience were not able to understand the agenda of such channels. The agenda was serving someone else as the people who invested in these channels were dictating their terms.
Such channels were creating fissures in the society, added the top court of the country.
Justice Joseph said that when a person claimed freedom of speech and expression, he must act like he deserved it, otherwise there was no dignity left.
Appearing on behalf of the Central government, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K.M. Nataraj apprised the Apex Court that it was planning to introduce a comprehensive amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to tackle the menace.
Advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that he would like to place a draft of four-five pages before the Court, in which he would mention the important aspects to be included in the impending law. The Court permitted him to submit the draft and listed the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
The bench also pulled up the News Broadcasting Standards Authority for not taking enough steps to control such broadcasts.
Representing the NBSA, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar told the Court that Sudarshan TV and Republic TV were not part of their network and that is why they were not under the jurisdiction of NBSA. The Counsel further said that a code should be made as part of the programme code, which should apply across the board.
The Bench then asked about action to be taken against such news anchors, who themselves fuelled such hate. It said if the anchor of a programme was part of the problem, then NBSA should not be biased.
The Apex Court further asked the Authority as to how many times it had taken the anchors off a channel. The Bench further said that during a live programme, the key to fairness of a programme depended on the anchor. If there was a fine on the anchors, they would know that there was a price to pay for this. Anchors should be taken off too, it added.
The Court emphasised that media persons should know how to conduct themselves.
The Apex Court further said that when a TV channel introduced people, they called them with derogatory names. For example, in the recent incident of a man caught peeing in an Aeroplane, the kind of words used by the channels were not good. He was an undertrial.
The Court further said that everyone had dignity and nobody had the right to denigrate anyone.