Defining Hate Speech

News: As there is no clear definition of what constitutes a “hate speech” in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws is attempting for the first time to define such speech.

What is Hate Speech?

  • In general, it refers to words whose intent is to create hatred towards 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 Development recently 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 267th Report 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.
  • The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently 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.).”
  • Legally speaking, for criminal Sections to be invoked, any hate speech has to lead to violence or disturbance of law and order. However, even merely criticising someone is being termed hate speech. This is happening as there is no proper definition for this.
  • Hate speech threatens two key doctrines of democracy:
  • The guarantee of equal dignity to all.
  • The public good of inclusiveness.

Factors to be considered while defining Hate Speech:

  • The extremity of the speech.
  • Incitement
  • Status of the author of the speech.
  • Status of victims of the speech.
  • Potentiality of the speech.
  • Context of the Speech.

Indian Penal Provisions Related to Hate Speech:

Indian Penal Code:

  • Sections 153A and 153B of the IPC: Punishes acts that cause enmity and hatred between two groups.
  • Section 295A of the IPC: Deals with punishing acts which deliberately or with malicious intention outrage the religious feelings of a class of persons.
  • Sections 505(1) and 505(2): Make the publication and circulation of content which may cause ill-will or hatred between different groups an offence.

Representation of People’s Act:

  • 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.