Censure of government inaction cannot be branded as an attempt to spread hatred between different sections of society, the SC has ruled. Free Speech is one of the fundamental rights of people; it ensures that people are able to discuss, exchange and debate on certain topics. This human right allows people and communities to find and share information with others, without censorship or reprisals. This can be done through various mediums like Newspapers, Social Media, Interviews etc. Free speech of citizen be stifled by implicating them in a criminal case unless such speech has the tendency to affect public order, a bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat said while quashing a Fir registered against the editor of Shillong Times Patricia Mukhim who had spoken out against the Meghalaya’s government failure to check violence done against non-tribal in states.
Last week, A Khasi tribal was killed in a clash in a village near the Bangladesh border, followed by a stabbing spree by masked attackers in the city of Shillong; this spree led to the death of two non-tribal men, both Muslims. The violence underlined the ethnic complexities of the state. Meghalaya is a tribal majority state and the indigenous tribes of Khasi, Jaintias and Garos are entitled to 80% reservation. Groups like Khasi Student Union (KSU) have frequently expressed concerns that illegal migration from neighbouring countries or from another state would overwhelm the indigenous communities.
Mukhim had spoken out against this violence on a Facebook post the Meghalaya government where quickly register an FIR are against her under charges of causing “disaffection between different communities” the Court said that the complaint made by Dorbar Shnong said, “it would cause communal tension and might end up in a communal conflict in the state”. Something similar happened in Bombay a few decades back the justice was terminated because it was termed communal, The riots happened after weeks of attack on Muslims in North India in the aftermath of the destruction of a 16th Century Mosque in the city of Ayodhya. The case wa termed as “Communal” because the violence involved communities identified by religious differences, the riots were orchestrated events that depended on the connivance or outright participation of police higher officers and other political leaders
The fervent plea for the protection of non-tribals living in Meghalaya and for their equality cannot be categorised as hate speech.
This article has been written by Siddhesh Patil for The Paradigm
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