New Delhi, Sept 21: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government as to why it was standing as a "mute spectator" to hate speeches while also expressing displeasure over mainstream television channels for running such shows and programmes.
The court asked where the country is heading to, as it put a poser to the Union government as to why it was treating the issue as trivial one.
"Hate speech poisons the very fabric of our country, it can't be permitted. Political parties will come and go but the nation and institution of free press will endure. We should have true freedom, and the government should come forward to take a stand," a bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said.
Without naming TV channels, the court said freedom of press is important, "but we should know where to draw the line". Nowadays, anchors don't allow their guests to speak, run them down, mute them and become discourteous too, the bench said.
"All this is going in the name of freedom of speech. It is sad if nobody making them accountable," the bench said, adding the free speech also included the right of the viewers.
"Until institutional mechanism is put in place, people will continue like this. We should have a proper legal framework," the bench added.
The bench specifically asked the Centre if it is contemplating any legislation to control hate speech in terms of the Law Commission of India's 267 th report which suggested amendment to the IPC and Criminal Procedure Code.
The court was hearing a batch of PILs including by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay for framing a law to control hate speech and rumour mongering.
Deliberating upon the role of media including the Television Channels, the court referred to previous SC judgements in Vishakha and Tehseen Poonawalla cases to saying some guidelines could be framed after considering the Centre's response.
Citing the role of media, the court said, it is not to take orders from anyone if it is truly independent.
"You (media) should foster constitutional values, everybody is part of this republic. Everybody belongs to this one nation," the court said, adding hate speech can take place in various forms like running a slow campaign against a community.
The bench said the Union government should not take up the matter as adversarial and take it up as an opportunity to bring out some legislation.
After hearing Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj and advocate Sanjay Tyagi for the Union government and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, and others, the court asked the Centre to file a response within two week.
The court asked Hegde to assist it by collating points from writ petitions filed in the matter.
The Centre, on its part, said following the top court's order of July 21, it had received response from only 14 states on the issue.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on November 23.