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Tackling Hate Speech

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September 21, 2021

What is the issue?

Recently, a speech by a Kerala Bishop has caught attention for accusing a few Muslim groups of giving Catholic girls narcotics or wooing them with the aim of religious conversion terming it as ‘narcotic jihad’.

What is hate speech?

  • Hate speech is an incitement to hatred against a particular group of persons marginalised by their religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, and so on.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, (1942), established the doctrine of fighting words which inflicts injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.
  • In India, hate speech is not defined under the Constitution or in the penal statutes.
  • There is no specific legislation on hatespeech.
  • But, Section 153-A of IPC prohibits “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.”

Why is this issue a serious concern?

  • Hate speech infringes the dignity and equality of individuals.
  • It creates barriers of mistrust and hostility between individuals and groups, plants fears and obstructs normal relations.
  • In Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India (2014), the Supreme Court of India quoted from the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision in Saskatchewan v. Whatcott (2013).
  • It said that the hate speech places a serious barrier to the full participation of groups such as minority in our democracy.
  • Relentless accusations have led to cases of violence carried out solely on the basis of identity.

What does this incident call for?

  • Hate speech has to be countered with political and jurisprudential means.
  • There is a need for political and pedagogical solution to the menace.
  • The Constitution’s ideas of equality, liberty and fraternity must be educated among the masses.
  • Whenever hate speech thrives, the state should invoke the existing law judiciously in appropriate cases and must take a secular stand based on the rule of law.
  • The Law Commission in its 267th report on hate speech has proposed Section 153C which penalises incitement to hatred with two years’ imprisonment or Rs. 5,000 in fine or both.
  • It has also proposed Section 505A to punish speech or writing that causes fear or alarm among a group, or provokes violence on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth or disability.


Source: The Hindu

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