Freedom of Speech and Expression has social responsibility – Madras High Court
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 justice N Anand Venkatesh cautioned while dismissing a batch of petitions filed by Thirumurugan Gandhi.
There are series of cases booked against Thirumurugan Gandhi, founder-coordinator, May 17 Movement for having delivered hate speeches against the Centre, the State Government as well the judiciary.
After extracting the speeches reportedly delivered by the petitioner at different platforms, the judge said, they show the petitioner “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.”
He pointed out that the petitioner through his speeches had repeatedly attempted to portray as if Tamil Nadu did not belong to India and that every organ was attempting to destroy the State. He has used the choicest of words against the Supreme Court and the High Court and alleged caste-based domination in the judiciary.
“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 the society and become a part of the mainstream. On the other hand, it will only sow the seeds of hatred among communities,” the judge advised.
Agreeing that free speech was the foundation of a democratic society, the judge said, “Restraints on this right have been zealously watched by courts. However, 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 sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, decency and incitement to an offence”.
The Madras High Court directed the police to investigate thoroughly and ascertain if Thirumurugan Gandhi is the face of a larger net.