New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said India was a mature democracy and there was space for all shades of opinion during the election campaigning before people make a final choice.
"Let all shades of opinion come and people will decide," said a bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice Dipak Misra while dismissing a PIL seeking that all political parties and the candidates should file affidavits at the time of filing nomination papers to undertake that they would nor resort to hate speech during their campaigns.
Justice Lodha, declining to entertain the plea by petitioner ML Sharma, said: "We are a mature democracy. Freedom of speech is a precious right given by the Constitution. Don`t suggest steps to restrict it."
The court said that India was a country of 126 crore people and all should be allowed to express their opinion and then people will make their choice.
Sharma said that he was not asking for something that was not there in law but was only asking that all the political parties and candidates should swear an affidavit that they will not indulge in hate speech during the electioneering.
Sharma has sought direction to the Election Commission to launch the prosecution of people under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code for making hate speeches.
The section seeks to punish those who promote enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and do acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
"The freedom of expression is always subject to reasonable restrictions and if an individual is given power to enforce reasonable restrictions then entire freedom will go," the court said.
Brushing aside the plea, the court said that instead of protecting the freedom of speech, the petitioner was seeking to curb it. "Who will decide the reasonable restrictions, will it be decided by ML Sharma," it asked.
The PIL had also sought direction that of the none of the candidates contesting elections would avail foreign funds or services.