There is no specific legal definition of ‘hate speech’. Provisions in law criminalise speeches, writings, actions, signs and representations that foment violence and spread disharmony between communities and groups and these are understood to refer to ‘hate speech’.
Hate Speech as defined by the 267th report of the Law Commission of India is “an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like”.
How it is treated in Indian law
- Sections 505(1) and 505(2) make it a crime to publish or distribute content that may incite ill will or hatred amongst various communities.
- Section 295A of the IPC: Deals with penalising activities that intentionally or maliciously offend a group of people’s religious sensitivities.
- Sections 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code: Punishes activities that promote hostility and hate between two communities.
- Section 8 of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951 (RPA) prohibits a person convicted of the unauthorised exercise of freedom of expression from contesting an election.
- Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA prohibit the promotion of hatred based on race, religion, community, caste, or language in relation to elections and classify it as corrupt electoral activities.
- Bezbaruah Committee 2014: It proposed amending Section 153 C IPC (promoting or attempting to promote acts prejudicial to human dignity), which is punishable by five years in prison and a fine or both, and Section 509 A IPC (word, gesture, or act intended to insult a member of a particular race), which is punishable by three years in prison and a fine or both.
- Viswanathan Committee 2019: It suggested amending the IPC to include Sections 153 C (b) and 505 A for inducement to commit an offence on the basis of religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, domicile, language, handicap, or tribe. It advocated a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of Rs. 5,000.
Subjects like hate speech become a tough matter to deal with in a country like India, which has a vast population of many origins and cultures, because it is impossible to distinguish between free and hate speech. Several aspects must be considered when limiting talks, such as the amount of strong viewpoints, if they are objectionable to certain populations, and the impact on the ideals of dignity, liberty, and equality. There are laws against such crimes, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Giving a correct definition to hate speech would thus be the first step in dealing with the problem, and other activities such as raising public awareness are also required.
How to structure
- Give the definition of hate speech
- Mention the causes, reasons, effects etc.
- Explain how it is treated in the Indian law- give the constitutional and aspects related to IPC
- Suggest way forward