Views on Hate Speech – UPSC GS1

Context:
  • Some hate speech incidents have taken place in Uttarakhand and Delhi.
  • Speakers made statements about killing Muslims to make a Hindu Rashtra, shooting a former prime minister and calling upon the police, leaders and the army to take up arms to indulge in ethnic cleansing.
  • Government has constituted an SIT to look into the matter.
Legal provisions:
Indian penal code penalises hate speech through various sections:
  • Section 153A: Penalizes the promotion of enmity between different groups.
  • Section 153B: Punishes assertions prejudicial to national integration.
  • Section 505: Punishes rumours and news intended to promote communal enmity.
  • Section 295A: Criminalises insult to religious belief.
Relevance of Article 21 in this issue:
  • All citizens in India are guaranteed their right to life and personal liberty by Article 21 of Constitution.
  • Issuing threatening statements against anyone or any specific community is a clear violation of this right enshrined under Article 21.
  • SC has held that Article 21 must be interpreted in conformity with international law, as India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
  • The state therefore has an absolute obligation to ensure that this right is not just preserved but protected.
Views on Hate Speech:
  • SC view:
    • SC in Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India had defined “hate speech” as “an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group.”
    • “Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on the vulnerable that can range from discrimination to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide.”
    • “The root of the problem is not the absence of laws but rather a lack of their effective execution.”
    • In Amish Devgan v. Union of India (2020), the Supreme Court held that hate speech has no redeeming or legitimate purpose other than hatred towards a particular group.
Views on Fraternity:
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
    • He stated in 1949 that “It would be in the interest of all to forget that there is anything like majority or minority in this country and that in India there is only one community.”
  • Constitutional framers had incorporated “fraternity” as one of the goals in the Preamble.
  • B R Ambedkar, had stated in the Constituent Assembly that: “Fraternity is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life.” “If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.”
Various Recommendations:
  • Law commission of India, in 267th report, recommended incorporation of 2 provisions to define Hate Speech and incorporate objectivity.
  • Parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, recommended incorporation of provisions in the information technology act to deal with online hate speech.