25% OFF on all LCI Courses. Offer valid till 5th Oct. Use Code: DUS25
LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More


Key Takeaways

  • Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.
  • Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code criminalises the promotion of enmity between groups of people on grounds such as religion and race, place of birth, residence, and language.
  • Sections 95 and 96 of the CrPC allow the state government to issue a lawful order forfeiting any 'book, journal, or document' that contains matter that is punishable under various sections of the IPC.
  • The Cinematography Act of 1952 regulates the exhibition of a film by enacting a number of rules that provide the government with the authority to take action against such an exhibition.
  • The Prevention of Atrocities Act,1989 prohibits anyone who is not a member of the SC or ST group from speaking to them in a demeaning or hurtful manner.
  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951, has a Section 123 that deals with corrupt electoral practices.

Introduction

For years, much has been said about free speech and the right to express oneself. From human rights to fundamental rights, the discussion continues. Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. However, as time has passed, the State has erected barriers to free speech in the form of defamation, sedition, and hate speech.

When we talk about hate speech, we're talking about any type of speech or reference that expresses a level of hostility toward a person or a group of people. The phrase "hate speech" is not technically defined in any of India's laws; however, it is a term born out of social context and refers to any speech that a certain segment of society finds offensive.

Legal provisions governing a hate speech

1.Indian Penal Code

  • The Indian Penal Code has several provisions that apply to hate speech. These sections make hate speech illegal and spell out the penalties for it. Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the promotion of enmity between groups of people on grounds such as religion and race, place of birth, residence language, and acts that are prejudicial to maintaining harmony, imposes a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine in such cases.
  • The destruction of places of worship or sacred things is punishable under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code 1860.
  • Speech that is harmful to a person's religious sensibilities is illegal under Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Sedition is defined under Section 124A of the IPC, which states that any remarks written or uttered that incite hatred or disaffection against the government established by law arepunishable.

2. Criminal Procedure Code

  • The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) lays forth the steps that must be taken while administering criminal law. There are a few sections of the CrPC that outline the steps to take if hate speech is criminalised:
  • Sections 95 and 96 of the CrPC allow the state government to issue a lawful order forfeiting any 'book, journal, or document' that contains matter that is punishable under various sections of the IPC, as determined by the guidelines provided by the judiciary following its liberal interpretation.
  • The state government is allowed to censor publications under Section 95 of the law. Section 96 allows for the review of orders made under that section.
  • When the offense is committed by publishing hate speech in various jurisdictions, Section 178 can be invoked.
  • Section 144 allows for the grant of temporary orders in circumstances of imminent nuisance or injury.

3. Election laws

  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951, has a section 123 that deals with corrupt electoral parties. Various sections of this Act prohibit any candidate, either directly or indirectly through another person, from engaging in corrupt electoral practices that would result in the election being annulled if the appeal was made in the name of the candidate's religion, the election agent's religion, the opponent's religion, or the voter's religion. (Ref: (Abhiram Singh v C.D. Commachen, 2017))
  • An appeal to vote or not vote based on one's religion, race, caste, community, or language, or an appeal to religious or national symbols to influence an election, is deemed a corrupt electoral practice under Section 123(3).
  • Promotion of hatred based on his religion, race, caste, community, or language, as well as appeals to religious or national symbols, are prohibited under Section 123(3A).

4. Prevention of Atrocities Act:

  • The Prevention of Atrocities Act,1989 prohibits anyone who is not a member of the SC or ST group from speaking to them in a demeaning or hurtful manner. The elements of such a criminal offence will have to be proven by the prosecution. Few networks, such as Twitter, have outlawed the use of social media to post speeches.

5. Media Law

  • The Cinematography Act of 1952 regulates the exhibition of a film by enacting a number of rules that provide the government the authority to take action against such an exhibition.
  • Various laws, including Section 7 of the Cinematography Act of 1952, authorise the Board of Film Certification to restrict and regulate film screenings. The film's examination is discussed in Section 4.
  • Section 5B states that a film or any part of it may not be certified for public exhibition if the authority is of the opinion that the film or any part of it is contrary to the state's security, sovereignty, and integrity, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court, or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.

6. Indian Constitution

  • Article 19(1)(a) of India's Constitution, which declares that "all citizens shall enjoy the right to freedom of speech and expression," protects freedom of speech and expression as a basic right.
  • The Indian constitution, however, has imposed a reasonable restriction under Art 19(2), where the word reasonable should strike a balance between the use and misuse of this right.

Relevant case laws

  • In the well-known case of (Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India, 2014), the Supreme Court held that hate speech is not punishable because it is not covered by any of India's current laws. Instead, the Supreme Court asked the Law Commission to look into the matter in order to keep it out of the realm of judicial overreach. This is essentially why the Legislature was entrusted with the task.
  • In the case of (Amish Devgan v. Union of India and Ors, 2020)., the court concentrated on a number of legal issues in order to decide the meaning of hate speech. It decided to interpret Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits inciting animosity between groups and acting in ways that are harmful to harmony.In order to deliberate on the FIRs filed against Amish Devgan, the Apex Court looked into the legitimacy of the FIRs. Despite the fact that the petitioner's request for the FIRs to be quashed was denied, the Supreme Court granted him interim protection in exchange for his apology and cooperation in the inquiry.

Conclusion

Indian Laws lack a clear definition that distinguishes between 'hateful' and 'not hateful,' making it a contentious issue in our constitution over the scope of freedom of speech and expression. Promoting communal disharmony or emotions of enmity between different religious, racial, language, or regional groups, castes, or communities is a criminal charge under multiple provisions of the Indian Penal Code. In recent years, Hate Speech has had a significant impact on freedom of speech and expression. It has caused social upheaval and public disorder. So, strict legislation specifically aimed at this menace is demanded from the Legislature of our country.


"Loved reading this piece by Twinkle Madaan?
Join LAWyersClubIndia's network for daily News Updates, Judgment Summaries, Articles, Forum Threads, Online Law Courses, and MUCH MORE!!"






Tags :


Category Others, Other Articles by - Twinkle Madaan 



Comments


update
Post a Suggestion for LCI Team
Post a Legal Query