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3-min read

Madras High Court Turns Down Plea to Quash FIRs Against Pro-Tamil Activist in Cases of 'Hate Speech'

Justice Anand Venkatesh held that the speeches made by the petitioner will certainly promote a feeling of enmity, hatred and ill will between different religious groups and communities.

PTI

Updated:July 9, 2019, 4:36 PM IST
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Madras High Court Turns Down Plea to Quash FIRs Against Pro-Tamil Activist in Cases of 'Hate Speech'
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Chennai The Madras High Court Tuesday dismissed petitions by pro-Tamil activist Thirumurugan Gandhi seeking to quash eight FIRs registered against him for alleged hate speeches, observing that the Constitution doesn't permit such utterances in the name of freedom of speech and expression.

Justice Anand Venkatesh held that the speeches made by the petitioner will certainly promote a feeling of enmity, hatred and ill will between different religious groups and communities.

The speeches also have shades of fissiparous and separatist tendencies, which will seriously affect the unity of the nation and have an impact on the growth and development of Tamil Nadu, he said.

The judge said it is also important for police to investigate thoroughly and see if "there is a larger net and whether the petitioner is only the face of it".

Gandhi, founder of the "May 17 Organisation", faces a slew of cases over his comments against the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government.

"This court is of the considered view there are prima facie materials available against the petitioner and there are absolutely no grounds to interfere with the investigation conducted by the respondent, police, at this stage," he said dismissing the petitions.

In his order, the judge noted that free speech was the foundation of a democratic society and restraints on this right have been jealously watched by courts.

Justice Venkatesh said the Constitution itself prescribes restrictions of the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2).

It enables the legislature to impose restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression on eight grounds, including the country's sovereignty and integrity, public order, decency and incitement to an offence, he said in the order.

The judge said any leader or a speaker who takes to a public platform or expresses through social media, must bear it in mind that the country's Constitution does not permit hate speech in the name of freedom of speech and expression.The responsibility attached to free speech should not be forgotten.

Hate speeches create discord among various ethnic and religious communities, he said, adding that any speech which disrespects another citizen on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community is forbidden and punishable under the Indian Penal Code and various other laws, he said.

Referring to the allegations made against the petitioner in the complaints and extracted in the FIRs, the judge said a careful reading of them show that "the petitioner has a clear tendency to get into a vitriolic diatribe whenever he picks up the microphone."

Citing extracted portions of the petitioner's speeches, Justice Venkatesh said they were pregnant with hate spewed against a particular community which is attacked in a "vituperative, opprobrious and slanderous manner".

"The petitioner is repeatedly attempting to portray as if Tamil Nadu does not belong to India and that every organ is attempting to destroy this state. He has also used the choicest of words against the high court and Supreme Court," the judge said in his order.

He referred to submissions by the state public prosecutor that the petitioner had been giving hate speeches which induces negative thoughts in the minds of the public regarding various policies, projects and welfare schemes of the state and Central governments.

On the claim by Gandhi that he was running the organisation to protect the welfare and interest of Tamil Nadu, Justice Venkatesh said his speeches were nowhere near these avowed objects.

Spewing venom against a particular community is not going to help the downtrodden come up in the society and become a part of the main stream."On the other hand, it will only show the seeds of hatred among communities," he added.

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