Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj said that the Supreme Court has done a great balancing job in the judgement of no additional restrictions, other than those prescribed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, can be imposed on a citizen under the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The Advocate, who is the petitioner also welcomed the judgement of the Constitution Bench delivered on Tuesday.
Speaking to ANI, he said, "On one hand, the Supreme Court has protected the freedom of speech including the freedom of speech of the public functionaries. On the other hand, the Court has come down heavily against hate speech which was different and distinct from free speech. This has been made categorically clear by the Supreme Court by way of today's judgement. Therefore it upholds the free speech of public functionaries as well as the ordinary citizens on the one hand. And at the same time, it has given a heavy blow against the hate speech which cannot be treated as part of free speech."
He also opined that the rate of hate speech in the country has reached alarming proportions after 2014 has been taken note of by the Court.
He further said, "Justice Nagaratna, after quoting the Bhagavad Gita and Basavaiah, the great saint of Karnataka has held that hate speech cannot be treated as the articulation of ideas. It has to be given a full stop in the country for strengthening the fraternity, the dignity of the individual. The state also has got a duty to protect it."
He also said that a minister's statement is connected with the government's job or the government's function, depending upon the context.
"Suppose a minister is making a political speech, there is no quarrel, there is no room for any complaint from anybody. But if the representative of the government, if he makes an official statement which has a disparaging impact, then necessarily the government is answerable. This distinction is subtle but the distinction is very important. So in all situations, when the minister is making a statement, he has to be very cautious, he has to be responsible, he has to govern by the principles of the Constitution of morality. This is what the Court is conveying by way of today's judgement," he said.
On the question of Justice BV Nagaratna's separate judgement that it's for the parliament in its wisdom to enact a law to restrain public functionary from making disparaging remarks against fellow citizens, he said that "the petitioner in the case never asked in the Court to impose any additional restriction in the freedom of expression by the public functionaries. Even the code of conduct was mooted in the context of self-regulation, therefore the Court rightly said that it is not for the Court to impose any restriction on any public functionaries. It is for the lawmakers, it is for the Parliament, it is for the legislature to do that exercise. So voluntarily that in itself implies that the code of conduct cannot be imposed upon the public functionaries. It has come from among themselves. This is what the Court also said."
He also termed Justice Nagaratna's view as absolutely correct in the context of Article 19 (1) and 19 (2).
"Because all the judges said other than the restrictions which are now imposed by way of Article 19 (2), there cannot be any further restrictions on any individual including the public functionaries. This is the proposition which has been unanimously agreed to. Therefore Justice Nagaratna has rightly said if at all a code of conduct is required, that has to come from the Parliament. In the context of hate speech, it's for the lawmakers to take the real lessons from the judgement that the Supreme Court has delivered and to act upon it. The judgement according to my view is absolutely correct," he added. (ANI)