Hate speech

With reference to the ‘hate speech’, consider the following statements:

(1) Under Section 153A of IPC, promotion of enmity between different religious groups is an offence punishable with 10 years’ imprisonment.
(2) Section 505 of IPC makes it an offence to making “statements conducing to public mischief”.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: 2 only

Explanation: A recent religious conclave held in Haridwar witnessed inflammatory and provocative speeches by proponents of Hindutva, many of them leaders of religious organisations. Political parties and concerned citizens have termed these as ‘hate speech’ and demanded legal action against those involved in the propagation of hate and violence.

What is hate speech?

There is no specific legal definition of ‘hate speech’. In general, hate speech is considered a limitation on free speech that seeks to prevent or bar speech that exposes a person or a group or section of society to hate, violence, ridicule or indignity.

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’.

Sections 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code are generally taken to be the main penal provisions that deal with inflammatory speeches and expressions that seek to punish ‘hate speech’.

Under Section 153A, ‘promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’, is an offence punishable with three years’ imprisonment.

Section 505 of IPC makes it an offence to making “statements conducing to public mischief”.

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