The Supreme Court refused to quash FIRs lodged in different states against television channel News18 anchor Amish Devgan for his alleged defamatory remark against Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti during a show on June 15.

The top court, however, said Devgan will get protection from any coercive action if he continues to cooperate with the probe.

In its judgment, the bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna said: "Freedom and rights cannot extend to create public disorder or armour those who challenge integrity and unity of the country or promote and incite violence."

"Hate speech has no redeeming or legitimate purpose other than hatred towards a particular group."

Without acceptable public order, "freedom to speak and express is challenged and would get restricted for the common masses and law-abiding citizens", the court further observed.

Several FIRs were lodged against Amish Devgan in at least four states after he used a derogatory term for the Sufi saint on his debate news show named 'Aar Paar aired on June 15 this year.

The bench has also transferred all FIRs lodged in states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana against Devgan to Ajmer in Rajasthan.

Distinction Between Free Speech and Hate Speech

The Apex court noted that a clear distinction was needed with regard to what is construed as free speech and hate speech.

The court observed: 'It is necessary to draw a distinction between 'free speech' which includes the right to comment,   favour or criticise government policies; and 'hate speech' creating or spreading hatred against a targeted community or group.' 

'The former is primarily concerned with political, social and economic issues and policy matters, the latter would not primarily focus on the subject matter but on the substance of the message which is to cause humiliation and alienation of the targeted group'