The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that television news channels often escape without any punishment for giving space to hate speech, reported Bar and Bench.

“We cannot give hate any air,” Justice KM Joseph said.

Justices Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy were hearing a batch of pleas seeking steps to be taken against hate speech incidents. In July, the court had directed the Centre to submit a report on how states have complied with directions issued by the Supreme Court in its Shakti Vahini and Tehseen Poonawalla verdicts.

The Shakti Vahini ruling was related to caste killings, while the Tehseen Poonawalla judgement was on lynchings in the country. The court had said that these verdicts had universal application for preventing violence in the context of society, culture, and religion, according to Supreme Court Observer.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the court noted that the absence of a regulatory mechanism for televisionnews was a problem as far as curbing hate speech is concerned, reported Live Law.

“I believe that all channel[s] are fined heavily in England,” Joseph said. “We don’t have that system here. Law means sanction, sanctions must be effected... The problem is that they are not being dealt with firmly.”

He added that news anchors share their own views on TV debates and panelists who have different perspectives on the topic are not allowed to express themselves.

“In doing that you are bringing hate and your TRP [Target rating point] is going up,” Joseph said.

The judge noted it was the duty of the anchors to ensure that the panelists on their show do not engage in provocative speeches.

“The role of anchor is critical,” he said. “It is their duty to see that hate speech doesn’t happen.”

The court also sought to know from the Centre why it is silent on the matter.

“Government should not take an adversarial stand but assist the court,” the bench said, reported NDTV. “Is this a trivial issue?”

The court said that politicians benefit the most from hate speech on news channels that give them a platform. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioners, agreed with the court’s views.

“Channels and politicians feed on such speech,” Hegde said. “Channels get money. They keep ten people in debates.”

Meanwhile, Solicitor General KM Nataraj told the court that 14 states have submitted their responses with on the court’s July order. The court also directed the central government to file a counter-affidavit on inputs received from the state and posted matter for hearing on November 23.

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