Hate Speech

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The Supreme Court recently directed the police and authorities to immediately and suo motu register cases against hate speech makers without waiting for a complaint to be filed.


  • There is no specific legal definition of ‘hate speech’.
  • In general, hate speech is considered a limitation on free speech that seeks to prevent or bar speech that exposes a person or a group or section of society to hate, violence, ridicule or indignity.
  • Provisions in law criminalise speeches, writings, actions, signs and representations that foment violence and spread disharmony between communities and groups and these are understood to refer to ‘hate speech’.

Article 19 and Hate Speech:

  • Article 19(2) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens of India.
  • This article is subjected to certain restrictions, namely, sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
  • Provisions in clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19 authorizes the State to restrict the exercise of the freedom guaranteed under the article.

Legal Provisions:

  • Sections 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code are generally taken to be the main penal provisions that deal with inflammatory speeches and expressions that seek to punish ‘hate speech’.
  • Under Section 153A, ‘promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’, is an offence punishable with three years’ imprisonment.
  • Section 505 of Indian Penal Code (IPC)makes it an offence to making “statements conducing to public mischief”.
  • Section 8 of Representation of the People Act, 1951 disqualifies a person from contesting election if he is convicted for indulging in acts amounting to illegitimate use of freedom of speech and expression.


Source The Hindu