Hate speech, blasphemy law have been in news for the past few years. It also gains importance in recent years owing to Supreme Court judgement on section 123 (3) of RPA. It has gained renewed attention owing to elections. Hence this topic needs to be done holistically!
Supreme Court raps Election Commission regarding Hate Speech
Placing it in the syllabus
Indian Constitution-significant provisions
Representation of Peoples Act, 1951
- Hate speech
- Constitutional Provisions
- Mechanisms to deal with them and Laws dealing with Hate speech in India
- Law Commission report on Hate speech
What is hate speech?
According to Law Commission of India(267th report), hate speech is “incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like”
The report of the commission further clarifies that hate speech is “any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression. Any restriction on this right shall only be permitted if the speech falls within one of the eight grounds set out in Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
- The freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) includes the right to express one’s views and opinions at any issue through any medium, e.g. by words of mouth, writing, printing, picture, film, movie, etc. It thus includes the freedom of communication and the right to propagate or publish an opinion. But this right is subject to reasonable restrictions being imposed under Article 19(2). Out of the eight different grounds listed on Article 19(2) of the Constitution, the majority of hate speech laws are saved by the ‘public order’ exception. The eight different grounds are;
- Security of the State.
- Friendly relations with foreign States.
- Public order.
- Decency and morality.
- Contempt of court.
- Incitement to an offence, and
- Sovereignty and integrity of India.
Reasonable restrictions on these grounds can be imposed only by a duly enacted law and not by executive action.
Mechanisms to deal with them and Laws dealing with Hate speech in India
Indian Penal Code, 1860
Following are the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which tackle hate speech are:
- According to Section 153A, a person who uses words (written/spoken) which promote or attempt to promote disharmony/enmity/hatred/ill-will between different groups or castes or communities on grounds including religion, language or caste is liable to be punished.
- According to Sections 295A and 298, acts intended to outrage or wound the religious feelings of any individual or class can be criminalized.
- Section 124A of the IPC penalizes sedition.
- Section 505(1) and (2) IPC penalizes publication or circulation of any statement, rumor or report causing public mischief and enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
- As per the directions of Supreme Court of India, the Law Commission of India in its report titled ‘Hate Speech’ recommended the addition of two more provisions in the IPC. The provisions were intended to criminalize hate speech which causes incitement to violence and speech that causes fear, alarm or provocation of violence in certain cases.
- However, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 which was passed in August this year does not make any changes relating to hate speech to the IPC.
Representation of Peoples Act, 1951
- Section 8 disqualifies a person from contesting the election if he is convicted for indulging in acts amounting to the illegitimate use of freedom of speech and expression.
- Section 123(3A) and 125 prohibits the promotion of enmity on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language in connection with election as a corrupt electoral practice and prohibits it.
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955
- Section 7 penalizes incitement to, and encouragement of untouchability through words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise
Cable Television Network Regulation Act, 1995
- Section 5 and 6 of the Act prohibit transmission or re-transmission of a programme through cable network in contravention to the prescribed programme code or advertisement code.
Cinematograph Act, 1952
- Section 4, 5B and 7 empower the Board of Film Certification to prohibit and regulate the screening of a film
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Section 95 empowers the State Government, to forfeit publications that are punishable under sections 124A, 153A, 153B, 292, 293 or 295A IPC.
- Section 107 empowers the Executive Magistrate to prevent a person from committing a breach of the peace or disturb the public 8 tranquillity or to do any wrongful act that may probably cause breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity.
- Section 144 empowers the District Magistrate, a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered by the State Government in this behalf to issue the order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger.