The Supreme Court on Monday said that criticism of the government cannot be considered as hate speech or public mischief only if it does not call for public disorder or violence. Protecting the freedom of expression, justices Sanjiv Khanna and AM Khanwilkar said in a 128-page judgment that “disloyalty” to the government can’t be considered as an offence.

The judges were hearing a petition by journalist Amish Devgan, who asked the Apex court to cancel FIRs over his comments on Sufi seer Moinuddin Chishti.

“Political speech relating to government policies requires greater protection for preservation and promotion of democracy,” the judges said in the verdict.

“Comment or criticism of the government action, in howsoever strong words, must be protected and cannot be a ground to take penal action unless the words written or spoken, etc have pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder,” the bench added.

According to the Supreme Court, questioning and criticism of the government policies and laws are subject to democratic process.

“Disloyalty to the government by law and comments even in strong terms on the measures or acts of the government so as to ameliorate the condition of the people or to secure cancellation or alteration of those actions or measures by lawful means, without exciting of those feelings of enmity and disloyalty which imply excitement to public disorder or use of force, is not an offence,” the SC bench said.