New Delhi: A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court by a group of former civil servants seeking to intervene in a petition which has sought a stay on Sudarshan TV programme "UPSC Jihad", which focuses on how Muslims have "infiltrated" the Indian civil services.
Earlier, the apex court had declined to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the show, and also issued notice to the Centre in the matter. The petitioners had argued that the content of the programme would stoke communal tensions. The intervenors, who have formed an informal collective known as the Constitutional Conduct Group, contended that the court had expressed an intention to consider the balance between free speech and other constitutional values raised in the matter.
"It is respectfully submitted that this is an important and urgent judicial task. There exist several legal provisions that prohibit, criminalize, otherwise penalize what is colloquially known as hate speech. These include Sections 153A and 153B of the IPC, Section 3 (i)(x) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, Section 5 of the Cinematograph Act, and the Programme Code that is passed under the authority of the Cable Network", said the plea.
The petitioners argued that due to the wide and vague wording of these provisions, their application has been inconsistent and uneven. "Freedom of speech and expression is not limited to what the ruling dispensation may find palatable or what public consensus may permit but includes the freedom to dissent, to question received wisdom and established social mores and to offend, shock or disturb", said the plea.
The petitioners contended that a heavy burden lies upon the state to justify restrictions upon freedom of speech. "There is no bright line between hate speech and offensive speech. Each case requires the application of judicial mind", added the plea.