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SC Issue Notice to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland, and Gujarat Over Failure to Appoint Nodal Counsel for Hate Speech Prevention

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Supreme Court Hate Speech Law Insider

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Published on: November 29, 2023 at 15:40 IST

The Central Government informed the Supreme Court that four states, namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland, and Gujarat, have not appointed Nodal Counsels to combat hate speech, leading the Court to issue notices to these states. The Union of India highlighted this information among the 28 states and 8 Union territories.

The revelation came during a hearing on a batch of petitions related to hate speeches in the country. The Supreme Court, in a previous directive in the case of Tehseen Poonawalla, had instructed states to appoint Nodal Counsels in every district to address incidents of mob violence, lynching, and the dissemination of hate speeches.

Compliance Status and Notice Issued

The Bench, comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice SV Bhatti, considered the petitions and sought compliance information from the Central Government.

Additional Solicitor General K. M. Nataraj represented the Union of India, stating that 28 states and Union Territories have appointed Nodal officers to formulate strategies against lynching and mob violence linked to hate speech.

The states that complied with the 2018 judgment include Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, UT of Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.

However, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland, and Gujarat have not adhered to the directives. ASG Natraj explained, “They have also not responded to our letter. Actually, if they have appointed or not, we are not clear because they have not responded to us.”

Next Steps and Court’s Role

Justice Khanna responded by issuing notices to the standing/nominated counsels for the mentioned states, asking them to confirm whether nodal officers have been appointed.

The Court also clarified that it would not address individual matters related to hate speeches and urged concerned parties to approach their respective High Courts for such issues.

The Bench emphasized that its role would be confined to devising an effective mechanism for implementing measures against hate speech. The matter was directed to be listed on February 5, 2024.

The Court’s August 25, 2023, order noted, “In case, any State government does not furnish information/details, the said factum will be stated.”

The background of the case involves the need for a constitutional framework to address cow vigilantism, lynching, and targeted violence.

The Supreme Court, in the Poonawalla case, had outlined measures to combat such offenses by self-appointed protectors of law.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union Of India & Ors. and connected matters