• The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police chiefs of Delhi and Uttarakhand to respond to petitions that people accusedof delivering hate speeches at a Dharm Sansad organised in Haridwar have not been arrested yet.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana issued notice even as petitioners contended that the declarations of communal hatred made by the speakers at Haridwar and in Delhi were unlike anything seen or heard before. 


Definition of Hate Speech

  • In general, it refers to words whose intent is to create hatredtowards a particular group, that group may be a community, religion or race. This speech may or may not have meaning, but is likely to result in violence.
  • The Bureau of Police Research and Developmentrecently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases that defined hate speech as a language that denigrates, insults, threatens or targets an individual based on their identity and other traits (such as sexual orientation or disability or religion etc.).
  • In the 267thReport of the Law Commission of India, hate speech is stated as an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like.
  • In order to determine whether a particular instance of speech is a hate speech or not, the context of the speech plays an important role.


Lessons from the past:


  • The societies around the world have long understood, the harm in hate speech, hate speeches creates a climate that strengthens existing prejudices and discrimination.
  • A good example of this is history of anti-Semitism in Europe, it inculcated a cultural common sense about the Jewish people, this cultural common sense traded on stereotypes and social prejudice and economic boycotts on a daily basis.
  • The history of anti-Semitism in Europe is instructive. Over a long tie a number of visual and verbal cues were developed that everyone knew referred to the Jewish Community, to the point where it was no longer necessary to take the community by name. Indirect hate speech of this kind is known as a “dog whistle”.


Challenges in India


  • Our laws: The laws are unequipped to deal with the challenges of hate speech
  • The laws commonly invoked are Section 295A (blasphemy) and Sec 153A of Indian Penal Code (creating enmity between classes of people)
  • Section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (RPA): Prevents a person convicted of the illegal use of the freedom of speech from contesting an election.
  • Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA: Bars the promotion of animosity on the grounds of race, religion, community, caste, or language in reference to elections and include it under corrupt electoral practices.


 Social Consensus:


  • No matter how precise we try to make our concept of hate speech it will inevitably reflect individual judgement.
  • So there is requirement of a social consensus about what kind of speech is beyond the pale. Ex: In Europe Holocaust denial is an offense .
  • Achieving this social consensus is a difficult task which has to be achieved through consistent legal implementation and conversations that we as a society need to have.

Source: THE HINDU.