The Supreme Court has asked the Central government to place before it within six weeks the information regarding preventive, corrective and remedial measures taken by the state governments, so far, in compliance with its earlier judgments on hate speech.
- The Supreme Court has asked the Union Home Ministry to compile a report, in the form of a booklet, on measures taken by state governments, so far, in compliance with the court’s earlier judgments on hate speech.
- The court was hearing pleas against the alleged hate speech against a particular community.
- The Supreme Court in 2018, had issued a slew of guidelines for the Centre and State governments to control and prevent the increasing number of hate crimes, including mob violence and lynching.
About the ‘hate speech’ –
- Hate speech covers many forms of expressions which advocate, incite, promote or justify hatred, violence and discrimination against a person or group of persons for a variety of reasons.
- It poses grave dangers for the cohesion of a democratic society, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.
- If left unaddressed, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a wider scale.
- In this sense hate speech is an extreme form of intolerance which contributes to hate crime.
Article 19 and hate speech –
- Article 19(2) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens of India.
- This article is subjected to certain restrictions, namely, sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
- Provisions in clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19 authorises the State to restrict the exercise of the freedom guaranteed under the article.
Legal provisions of hate speech –
- Hate speech has not been defined in any law in India. However, legal provisions in certain legislations prohibit select forms of speech as an exception to freedom of speech.
- Indian Penal Code (IPC) Provisions —
- Under Section 153A of IPC, ‘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”.
- Representation of the People Act, 1951 —
- Section 8 disqualifies a person from contesting election if he is convicted for indulging in acts amounting to illegitimate use of freedom of speech and expression.
- Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 —
- Section 7 penalises incitement to, and encouragement of untouchability through words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise.
- Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988 —
- Section 3(g) prohibits religious institution or its manager to allow the use of any premises belonging to, or under the control of, the institution for promoting or attempting to promote disharmony, feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
Important Judgements –
- In Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the implementation of existing laws would solve the problem of hate speech to a great extent.
- In Jafar Imam Naqvi v. Election Commission of India, the petitioners filed a writ petition challenging the vitriolic speeches made by the candidates in the election and prayed for issue of writ of mandamus to the Election Commission for taking appropriate steps against such speeches.
- However, the Court dismissed the petition on the ground that the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution regarding speeches delivered during election campaign does not qualify as public interest litigation and that the Court cannot legislate on matters where the legislative intent is visible.
Suggestions by various committees –
- The Law Commission has proposed that separate offences be added to the IPC to criminalise hate speech quite specifically instead of being subsumed in the existing sections concerning inflammatory acts and speeches.
- Similar proposals to add sections to the IPC to punish acts and statements that promote racial discrimination or amount to hate speech have been made by the M.P. Bezbaruah Committee and the T.K. Viswanathan Committee.
- At present, the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws, which is considering more comprehensive changes to criminal law, is examining the issue of having specific provisions to tackle hate speech.
Supreme Court guidelines of 2018 –
- In Tehseen Poonawalla vs Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court had issued comprehensive guidelines to the Union and State Governments regarding prevention of hate crimes, including mob violence and lynching.
- These guidelines set out ‘preventive’, ‘remedial’ and ‘punitive’ measures for the Central and state governments as well as law enforcement agencies to deal with the increasing incidents of lynching in India.
- Major guidelines include –
- Fast-tracked trials,
- Victim compensation,
- Deterrent punishment,
- Disciplinary action against lax law-enforcing officials,
- Nodal officers to be appointed to take note of hate crimes and register FIRs across the nation.