The Supreme Court delivered some of its strongest comments on the topic on Friday, two days after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticized India’s human rights record and growing hate speech during a three-day visit.
“This is the 21st century. Where have we arrived in the name of religion?” the court said, hearing petitions over hate speech and instructing authorities to act on their own against such incidents or face contempt of court charges. “If the authorities fail to act, contempt will be invoked,” the court said.
It said the state of affairs in India “stunned a nation that was supposed to be religiously neutral”.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court sought responses from the central and states to a request for urgent intervention to stop “the growing threats and intimidation against the Muslim community in India”.
Petitioner Shaheen Abdullah has asked the Supreme Court to direct the centre and states to conduct credible investigations into incidents of hate crime and hate speech across the country.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared in court on behalf of the petitioners, cited the recent “Hindu House” as an example, in which Parvesh Verma, a BJP MP from West Delhi, called for a “total boycott” of “these people”, a An unmissable reference. to Muslims.
The judges also read comments from another speaker at the event, Jagat Guru Yogeshwar Acharya, who urged attendees to “cut off” anyone who “puts a finger on our temples”.
Mr Sibal thanked them for their stern order for police and the government to bring their own case, with the judge saying: “It’s our duty … if we don’t, it’s our abdication.”
In his petition, Mr Abdullah also sought to invoke the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other strict regulations to curb hate crimes and hate speech.
He said the Muslim community was being “targeted and intimidated” by members of the ruling party engaging in hate speech.
The hearing came two days after UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a rare condemnation of growing hate speech in the country.
“As an elected member of the Human Rights Council, India has a responsibility to shape global human rights, and to protect and promote the rights of all individuals, including members of minority communities,” Mr Guterres said in a speech in Mumbai.
While he praised India’s achievements after 75 years away from British rule, Mr Guterres also said understanding that “diversity is an asset … is not a guarantee”.
Mr. Guterres quoted Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru as saying their values needed to be protected by “clearly condemning hate speech”.
He said India must “do this by protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists, human rights activists, students and academics. And by ensuring the continued independence of the Indian judiciary,” adding that “more needs to be done to promote Gender Equality and Women’s Rights”.