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Hate Speech

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May 16, 2023

Why in news?

The Kerala High Court has delivered its judgement against a slew of petitions seeking a ban on the film ‘The Kerala Story’.

What is the case about?

  • Case - The Kerala Story, a film allegedly based on the instances of a few women joining the Islamic State, claimed that 32,000 girls went missing in Kerala after being recruited by the radical Islamist group.
  • After a slew of petitions were filed before various courts seeking a ban on the film, the filmmakers agreed to withdraw the teaser and carry a disclaimer that the film’s content is fictional.
  • Supreme Court - A division bench of the Supreme Court refused to grant a stay and suggested to approach the Kerala High Court for relief.
  • High Court - The Kerala High Court refused to stay the film’s release, saying that there was no allegation against a particular religion as a whole and that certain claims have been made only against ISIS.
  • The bench highlighted that artistic freedom must be protected and there was a need to balance competing interests.
  • However, it allowed the petitioners to prosecute their complaint before the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) seeking re-examination of the film.

Arguments for Ban

Arguments against the Ban

  • Likely to cause hatred and enmity between different sections of society in India
  • Infringes upon the constitutional values of equality and fraternity.
  • Film blatantly promotes hateful and malicious propaganda.
  • Has the potential to disturb public order, decency and morality, particularly women and the Muslim community.
  • The film was merely a form of art and cannot be conflated with hate speech.
  • There was no allegation against a particular religion as a whole and that certain claims have been made only against ISIS.
  • Artistic freedom must be protected and thus there was a need to balance competing interests.

What are the legal framework for dealing with hate speech?

Hate speech is an incitement to hatred against a particular group of persons marginalized by their religious belief, sexual orientation, and gender and so on.

  • Constitution - Hate speech is not defined in the constitution.
  • Article 19(1)(a) – It guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression but imposes reasonable restrictions on speeches that cause hate, violence, ridicule or indignity.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC)
    • Section 153A - Promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
    • Section 153B - Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration
    • Section 295A - Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
  • The Cinematograph Act 1952 - Empowers the Board of Film Certification to prohibit and regulate the screening of a film if it is likely to incite offence against public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court.
  • Cable Television Network Regulation Act 1995 - Requires cable news channels to adhere to a list of restrictions on content, prescribed under the programme code or advertisement code which have been defined under the Cable Television Network Rules 1994.
  • Law Commission - Proposed the addition of new provisions to the IPC, which are
    • Prohibiting incitement to hatred under sections 153C and
    • Prohibiting causing fear, alarm or provocation of violence under 505A.

What are the concerns with hate speech?

  • Concerns – Hate speech
    • Infringes the dignity and equality of individuals
    • Creates barriers of mistrust
    • Creates hostility between individuals and groups
    • Plants fears and obstructs normal relations
    • Increases the caste based violence
  • Way forward - Recognizing the insufficiency of existing laws to deal with different forms of hate speech, the Law Commission proposed the addition of new provisions to the IPC
    • Section 153C - Prohibiting incitement to hatred
    • Section 505A - Prohibiting causing fear, alarm or provocation of violence

Quick facts

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)

  • CBFC is a statutory body under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • It regulates the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
  • Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the CBFC.
  • CBFC consists of non-official members and a Chairman all being appointed by Central Government.
  • Headquarters - Mumbai



  1. The Hindu│Issues About Kerala Story Movie
  2. CBFC│About CBFC
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