Hate Speech
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In this article, Saksham Chhabra from UPES (Dehradun) discusses How to tackle Hate Speech Laws in India.


When we talk about the hate speech laws in India we mean the laws that are established for the protection of the interests and rights of the people in the society. Hate speech is one of the serious concerns in a country like India as the Indian law does not use the term Hate Speech. These hate speech laws in the country have been established so as to punish anybody who is causing great distress or is violating the religious feelings of any individual so as to punish such persons so that such kind of activities do not happen again. These laws are quite stringent because any hate speech done on any grounds is a direct violation of the Fundamental Rights that have been guaranteed under the Indian Constitution but with certain restrictions. The article further acknowledges that the biggest problems of hate speech online are mainly in those countries where there is high Internet connectivity and this problem is also becoming more typical as more and more people are getting connected across the globe through the use of the technology.


The term hate speech in the simple language means that any statement that is against or is violative to the religious beliefs, sentiments and faith of any person or a group of people in a community or which is in contradiction with the race, caste, religion, sex, disability, place of birth etc of an individual and is directly an attack towards the reputation of an individual. Hate speeches mainly refer to the speeches that involve any act of promoting fear, danger, violative actions, causing mental stress and tension in the mind of the person. There are certain laws that have been mentioned in the Constitution of India so as to prohibit the development of such kind of hate speeches and dispute among the people.

In countries like the USA the term has been specifically protected by various laws and provisions but in some countries, the law does not recognize the term hate speech. The ever growing technology through its various platforms have paved new ways for exchanging different views and methodologies as the freedom of speech holds an important value in any democracy for the public at large. It also gives rise to many new challenges and implications as to hate speech when people of different background and culture come into contact with each other through social media or any other platform.

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Verbal Abuse and targeting on the basis of the personal attributes of any particular communities in the society are now increasing day by day and are now becoming quite a common scenario. The hate speech in the context of community and caste means that defaming and using such ill-words against the people of different religion or caste. This Principle of Community states, “affirm the right to freedom of expression, promote open expression of our individuality and our diversity within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, confidentiality, and respect.” The most targeted by hate speech is the SC/ST, LGBT and the Muslim communities over the internet and this kind of activities may also result in criminal sanctions. Also, when, if any kind of hate crime is caused to any community and people among that community learn about that the initial reactions of the people are of anxiety, frustration and the feelings of vulnerability. This basically operates under the assumption all the speeches, words, expressions which are used to defame and degrade others are not directly protected so these kinds of words and phrases should be rightly addressed and debated upon so that the people are saved from any sort of disrespect.


While discussing in the context of Dalits (SC) and Tribals (ST) this act came into force for the purpose to prevent any kind of barbarity and crime against the SC/ST and that is why this act is also known as the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The government while passing this act felt the need to safeguard the interests and to improve the socio-economic conditions of the SC/ST’s which are have not been protected properly under the constitution. The main purpose of this act is to deliver quick and speedy justice as per Article 21 and Article 14(right to equality) of the Constitution of India to all the citizens of the country and these fundamental rights must not get infringed for these (SC/ST) communities so that they can live with proper self-esteem, self-respect and dignity in the society by establishing new courts for the fast completion of the cases. Also, section 14 of this act talks about the speedy trial of the cases.

This act also helps in the protection of the SC/ST from any disability like denial of access to certain places affecting Malicious prosecution, political disability, economic and food sexual exploitation. It basically implies the reduction of crime against the SC/ST and to give them equal status and opportunity in the society.


Racial hate speech basically means it the victim thinks that the incident was caused and carried out because of hostility(ill will) based upon the race or religion of that individual or acts which constitutes to illegal acts of racial discrimination. Racial Hate Speech can be caused in the form of verbal and physical abuse, bullying, threatening behavior or online abuse. Racial and religious hate speech and crimes are harmful to victims as they are targeted due to their personal identity, place of origin, color and their own beliefs/faiths that they follow. As Black and Minority ethnic victims as they are targeted as they belong to the minority groups and may face various kinds of discrimination. Racial hate speech may even give rise to hatred in the mind of the people in the form of terrorism. Thus, with the spread of education and removal of the Orthodox mindset that the people still have when we talk about the rural areas still follow this would result into the upliftment of the society and would help in the coming years to remove such kind of discrimination completely.


Online hate speeches– Hate Speech online is a wide expression which involves the difference of opinions among societies and it just a clear example that how the upliftment of the technology can bring both threats and opportunities within its own ambit. This implies to the difficult task of the balancing between the various Fundamental Rights and Principles respectively, including the wide term Freedom Of Expression which has been stated under Article 19(a) of the Constitution of India. This covers the number of methods/ways by which hatred in the society can be constructed but not the full range of the social categories. Thus, the concept of hate speech can be regarded as the disagreement of thought among the people.

  1. These days online hate speeches have been coming up a lot and have become common due to the access and advancement of the technology which has made almost all the people around the world come in touch with each other with the help of the internet but the people instead of using the benefits of this they are much getting into the harsh side of such technologies such as hate speech as people believe that putting their view forth and commenting their opinion in front of millions of people on any social platform is their right as per article 19(1) (a)[1] but they do not know that they cannot hurt the religious sentiments of any person as the rights guaranteed under the indian constitution such as in article 19(2) which imposes certain amount of restrictions upon the right to freedom of speech and expression which has been time and again been checked and challenged in the apex court as India is a very conservative type of society in which there are so many religions so the laws are to be related in the context of the interests of all the people so as not causing stress in the minds of the people
  2. Hate speech is a broad and debatable term. Multilateral treaties between various countries such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have desired to define its form.
  3. Multi-Stakeholders processes (e.g. the Rabat Plan of Action) have been involving themselves to bring greater clarity so as to identify hateful messages but still hate speech continues largely to be used in everyday discourse as a universal term, mixing substantial threat amongst the people and various individuals groups. The online and internet intermediaries websites that mediate online communication such as google, twitter, instagram etc have become advanced and have understood the term “hate speech” and had implemented various policies and rules on their applications that bind the users and allow the companies to limit to the certain forms of expression. The National and regional bodies have also initiated to promote the understandings of the hate speech that is much more rooted and prevalent in the local tradition.


There are many laws and provisions that have been established for the protection of the various religious beliefs and sentiments of the people o the country:

A) The Representation of People Act of 1951 (RPA):-The act was made so that the people who are being elected as the people’s representative are of high moral qualities and good character that are elected as it has been stated under the constitution in its article 324(Election Commission of India) has been protected, the (RPA) has set out certain standards of profound constituent quality and restricted certain demonstrations which defame the purity of the elections. In the domain of the continuous discourse gossip in India, the applicable sections of the RPA are such as Sections 123(3), 123(3A) and 125. According to Section 123 (3), advance for the sake of religion, station, group or dialect is a degenerate practice.

B) The Indian Law there are many provisions for the protection of the hate speech like under the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure(CRPC) and by other laws which put limitations on the freedom of expression. Also, section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1908 specifically gives the government the right to declare certain publications “forfeited” if the “publication … appears to the State Government to contain any matter the publication of which can be penalized under Section 124A or Section 153A or Section 153B or Section 292 or Section 293 or Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code”(See more).

The various provisions that provide punishment and relief against hate speech are as follows:

  1. Section 153A of the Indian penal code says that: Whoever (a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or (b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both[2].
  2. Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that: Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both[3].
  3. Section 509 A of the IPC says that (word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular race) would be punishable by three years or fine or both. It is important to note the similarities between this provision and the repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which sought to criminalize speech that was “grossly offensive,” having “menacing character,” or “causing annoyance..danger..insult..enmity, hatred or ill will.”[4]


  1. The Honorable Supreme Court in the case of Supdt. Central Prison v. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia (See more) held that there does indeed have to be a compromise between the interest of freedom of expression and social interests, but we cannot simply balance the two interests as if they are of equal weight. Our commitment to freedom of expression demands that it cannot be suppressed unless the situations created by allowing the freedom are pressing and the community interest is endangered. The anticipated danger should not be remote, conjectural or farfetched. It should have proximate and direct nexus with the expression.
  2. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in the case of Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India & Ors. (See more) observed that the matter of hate speech deserved deeper consideration by the Law Commission of India. Therefore, the Law Commission of India after taking in view the laws and various pronouncement on hate speech had submitted its Report No.267 before the Government of India in March 2017 for consideration. The Commission suggested amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by adding new provisions on ‘Prohibiting incitement to hatred’ following Section 153B of IPC and ‘causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases’ following Section 505 of IPC.
  3. One of the landmark judgment came in the matter of Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (See more).There were two women of Maharashtra who were arrested for expressing displeasure at a bandh called by the Shiv Sena in Mumbai after Bal Thackeray’s death in November 2012. The matter was taken up by lawyer Shreya Singhal. The expert committee, in its report, has stated that “representatives of the Ministry of Women and Child Development stressed upon re-introducing a renovated section 66A within the IT Act, incorporating suitable changes”. But, it goes onto say, other members of the committee advocated the line that with the IT Act being “commercial in nature”, it was important for an Act invoking punishment to amend the Indian Penal Code. The Law Commission, in turn, was acting at the behest of observations made by the Supreme Court in Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India (See more) in 2014. In this case, the Supreme Court exhibited judicial restraint and refused to frame guidelines prohibiting political hate speech, and had instead requested the Law Commission to look into it.


In the context of discussing the tackling of hate speech laws, we need to understand that Hate speech has been among the more complex issues with regard to the regulation of technology. The complication of restraining hate speech has to do with a number factors such as including the number of strong opinions in online speech, which are often offensive to certain groups, the networking between individual and group rights, and the strain between the values of dignity, liberty and equality. The range of actions which arise from such uses of the law which even include the banning of various books, criminal proceedings for political irony. Thus, it is difficult to tackle hate speech in a country with such a massive population and with people of different backgrounds and culture and with almost countless views and ideas which contradict with other groups of people and individuals. There are laws that have been made for such atrocities and seeing to the wider view of this in for the protection of the interests of the public at large the government is taking up actions to even make these laws even more stringent.


All the types of annoyance towards hatred should be treated with the same zero tolerance as these kinds of actions sometimes take place due to anger and frustration. Although free speech is quite valuable and important in the democracy of any country, it should be restricted only in exceptional circumstances like when it results in murder or violence. The most efficient way to dilute hatred is by the means of Education and Debate. Our prominent schools, public and social media figures have an important role to play in asserting such hatred, encouraging social benefits and helping to promote understanding and compassion with others. As it is rightly said by Desiderius Erasmus that “Prevention is better than cure” so in order to reduce and restrict hatred in the future we should start to built and imbibe the right education in us so that the chances of the occurrence of such kind of barbarity is curbed. Education and Debate not only seeks to prevent hatred in the first place, whereas illegalizing seeks to punish the culprit after he or she has already been involved in the hatred. Although there are many laws regarding hate speeches in the country like India but the laws should be more strict in penalising the person doing such kind of activities as the most precious thing for an individual are his religious sentiments and beliefs around which the life of an individual revolves and nobody can accept that anyone hurting their religious feelings.


  1. The Constitution of India bare act (bare act)
  2. The Indian Penal Code bare act(page 51)
  3. The Indian Penal Code bare act (page 105)
  4. The Indian Penal Code bare act (page 195)
  5. The Constitution of India(bare act)
  6. The Code of Criminal Procedure(bare act)
  7. The Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989
  8. The Indian Penal Code


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