Contending that criminal law is sometimes put in motion selectively, former Supreme Court judge Rohinton Fali Nariman on Friday suggested that civil courts should take up suits against hate speech and award punitive damages, Live Law reported.

“Hate speech disrupts harmony,” Nariman said. “The moment a citizens petitions against hate speech, the court can not only issue a declaration and injunction, because of the fundamental duty, it can also award punitive damages. And nothing hurts more than which hurts the purse.”

The former judge said that such a step could go a long way in promoting fraternity and harmony in the country.

Nariman made the suggestion while delivering the 13th VM Tarkunde Memorial Lecture on the topic “Rights, Duties, Directive Principles: What is Fundamental?”. The event was organised by the Tarkunde Memorial Foundation in honour of the former Bombay High Court judge VM Tarkunde .

In his Friday speech, Nariman stressed on the importance of fostering the spirit of the fifth fundamental duty of fraternity, reported Bar and Bench.

“Fraternity is the only constitutional method of assuring the dignity of every individual citizen of this country and of assuring integrity and unity of this nation,” he said. “According to me, fraternity is very important for this nation particularly at this time.”

He also lauded the Supreme Court’s order on October 21 in which it had directed the police in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh to take action in cases of hate speech irrespective of the religion of the offenders and without waiting for complaints.

In the order, a bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy had observed that statements made against minority communities in some recent religious conclaves were shocking, and wondered what effect religion was having on citizens.

“But I think that a civil step given this fundamental duty is what is also needed,” Nariman said on Friday.