Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Hate Speech: Interpreting Section 153A IPC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Section 153A , IPC, Freedom of Speech and Reasonable Restrictions

Mains level: NA

What is the news?

  • The Supreme Court reiterated that to constitute an offence under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the essential ingredient is to create a sense of enmity and disharmony amongst two or more groups or communities.
  • Quite often, politicians are arrested under section 153 A of IPC for alleged hate speech.

Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

  • Section 153A of the IPC deals with the offence of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.
  • The primary is to prevent the promotion of disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different groups in society.
  • It was enacted in 1898 and was not in the original penal code.

Prohibited Acts:

The section prohibits several acts:

  1. Engaging in activities that promote or attempt to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different religious, racial, linguistic, or regional groups.
  2. Committing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different groups or communities.
  3. Doing anything that disturbs or disrupts public tranquillity or creates unrest among various groups.

Essential Elements:

To constitute an offence under Section 153A, the following essential elements must be established:

  1. Promotion of enmity or hatred between different groups.
  2. Such promotion must be based on religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.
  3. The intention behind the act must be to disrupt public tranquillity or to create disharmony among groups.


  • Jail Term: Any individual found guilty of committing an offence under Section 153A may be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with a fine, or with both.
  • Cognizable and Non-Bailable: The offence is a cognizable offence and the punishment for the same may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. Further, the offence is non-bailable in nature, wherein the accused is tried by the magistrate of the first class.
  • Burden of Proof: It lies with the prosecution to demonstrate that the accused’s words, actions, or conduct were aimed at promoting enmity or hatred between different groups based on the specified grounds.


2014: What do understand by the concept “freedom of speech and expression”? Does it cover hate speech also? Why do the films in India stand on a slightly different plane from other forms of expression? Discuss.


2022: With reference to India, consider the following statements:

  1. When a prisoner makes out a sufficient case, parole cannot be denied to such prisoner because it becomes a matter of his/her right.
  2. State Governments have their own Prisoners Release on Parole Rules.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2


Practice MCQ:

Q.The Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) essentially deals with:

  1. Fake News
  2. Hate Speech
  3. Protest without permission
  4. Encroachment

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