Editorial: Take them to task

For the second time in 30 days, the Madras High Court has pulled up May 17 Movement founder Thirumurugan Gandhi, facing a slew of cases over his remarks against the Centre and Tamilnadu government on various issues. On Tuesday, the court directed the police to investigate thoroughly a series of cases booked against Thirumurugan Gandhi for having delivered hate speeches against the Centre, State government as well the judiciary and find out whether he was only the face of a larger net.

Issuing the direction while dismissing a batch of petitions filed by the ‘activist’ to quash some of the cases pending against him at different police stations in the State, Justice N Anand Venkatesh said, ‘Any leader or a speaker who takes to public platform or expresses through social media, must bear it in mind that the Constitution of India does not permit hate speech in the name of freedom of speech and expression. Hate speeches create discord amongst the various ethnic and religious communities. Any speech which disrespects another citizen on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community is forbidden and becomes punishable under Indian Penal Code and various other laws. The responsibility attached to free speech should not be forgotten.’

The court observed that Thirumurugan Gandhi ‘has a clear tendency to get into a vitriolic diatribe whenever he picks up the microphone… The speeches are pregnant with hate spewed against a particular community which is attacked in a vituperative, opprobrious and slanderous manner’. ‘The petitioner must understand that these hate speeches will in no way help or protect the welfare and interest of this State. Spewing venom against a particular community is not going to help the downtrodden come up in society and become a part of the mainstream. On the other hand, it will only sow the seeds of hatred among communities,’ said the judge. Last month, Justice G K Ilanthiraiyan of the High Court said, ‘It is seen from the speeches of the petitioners it is not an appreciable one. Though the petitioners have right to freedom of speech under the Constitution, their speech is a condemnable one, there should be certain limitations.’ In the past few years, there is a sudden spurt in the number of ‘activists’ in Tamilnadu who oppose anything and everything. Their backgrounds need to be thoroughly checked before things get out of hand.

NT Bureau