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Former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Rohinton Nariman said hate speech is a criminal act

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Rohinton Nariman has expressed concern over drastically increasing incidents of hate speech. According to media reports he said ‘it was a criminal act and suggested that Parliament should amend provisions to give minimum sentences to those guilty of it. He also said the higher echelons of the ruling party were not only silent on the issue but were almost endorsing it.’

“Off late we have had in this country young persons – students, stand-up comedians and the like — all being booked for freely criticising the government of the day under sedition laws which are really colonial in nature and have no place under our Constitution. On the other hand, you have persons giving hate speech — calling for genocide, and we find great reluctance among some of the authorities to book these people,” he said while giving a keynote address on “Constitutional Underpinnings of the Rule of Law”.

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He said, “It was heartening to know that at least a little later the Vice President of the country in a speech said that hate speech is unconstitutional. Not only is it unconstitutional, but it also happens to be a criminal act. Unfortunately, in practice, though a person can be given up to three years imprisonment, it never happens because there are no minimum sentences prescribed. If we really want to strengthen the rule of law as contained in our Constitution, I would suggest strongly that Parliament amends these provisions to provide minimum sentences so that the act has deterrence to others who make hate speech.”

“We also, unfortunately, have higher echelons of the ruling party not only being silent qua hate speech but also almost endorsing it,” he said.

“We heard the other day from the very head of the party a juxtaposition of a Mughal emperor known for being a bigot, namely, Aurangzeb as against Shivaji who was known to be a secular leader,” Justice Nariman said.

“Now if as a matter of fact, fraternity is a cardinal value in our Constitution and you want to engage persons in brotherhood, I would have thought you should have chosen a Mughal emperor such as Babar or his grandson Akbar. Akbar was famous for perhaps being one of the most secular rulers that any nation had ever known at any point in time,” he stated.

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