Supreme Court on Monday expressed willingness to issue directions to curb dissemination of “insulting” jokes on Sikhs through public modes like internet and SMS, but said the key concern was the enforcement of such directives.
“We are not saying that there should not be any guideline on the issue, but the question remains as to how these directions will be enforced,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices C Nagappan and A M Khanwilkar said.
The comments or jokes may be “humiliating and denigrating” to the community, the issue is how to enforce any such direction, the bench observed.
It asked lawyers and Sikh bodies like Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Amritsar, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC), Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee from Haryana and Gurudwara Management Committee from Patna Sahib in Bihar to mull over the issue after perusing various reports and materials and come out with their suggestions.
“We can pass orders to stop commercial exploitation of such jokes and materials,” it said, adding that in private arena, it will be difficult to contain such acts.
“People from Northeast and South also face such kind of harassment and discrimination,” the bench observed, adding “even if you are a Kannadiga or a Telugu or a Malayalee, people still call you a Madrasi. This is very insulting”.
The bench then deferred the hearing on the PIL by four weeks and sought suggestions about the possible directions on such practices and ways to enforce them.
Earlier, the court had asked organisations representing the Sikh community to make a united effort in their endeavour to ban jokes on them, rather than being divided in giving suggestions and evolving mechanisms to curb such activity.
“You should be united in the effort rather than divided,” it had said while hearing a batch of petitions
seeking ban on circulation of jokes on Sikhs.
Senior advocate R S Suri, appearing for DSGMC, had said a committee comprising former apex court judges — Justices H S Bedi, M Y Eqbal and former diplomat Pavan Verma and former bureaucrat M P Bezbaruah, an expert on northeast — was working and all of them will meet shortly to come out with the guidelines.
The senior advocate had said there was a need for simple guidelines which can be executed and “one final meeting is required.”
The first PIL on the issue was filed by a woman lawyer, Harvinder Chowdhary, who had then got emotional and spoke about the menace of jokes on the community by referring to the suicide of a boy, who was upset by a joke lampooning the community.
Chowdhary had said she herself has been the victim of being a Sikh, was treated in a discriminatory manner and suffered humiliation. She contended that such jokes were a violation of Sikhs’ right to equality and an attack on the dignity of the community.
Earlier the apex court had observed that there was a need to sensitise the society from the formative stages.
The Supreme Court, which had asked for suggestions from the committee, had said it can stop jokes when they are circulated for a commercial purpose and it would examine the framing of guidelines to stop circulation of racist or communal jokes in the cyber world.
The DSGMC has sought direction to Telecom Ministry to filter websites which targeted Sikh community, on the ground that it was violative of sections 153A and 153B of the IPC.
It had said the community was against making and circulating of jokes on Sikhs, Biharis and calling people from Northeastern states by a particular term.
(With PTI inputs)