From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Hate Speech vs Free Speech
A panel constituted by the Union Home Ministry to suggest reforms to the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) is likely to propose a separate Section on “offences relating to speech and expression.”
Panel to define hate speech
- As there is no clear definition of what constitutes a “hate speech” in the IPC, the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws is attempting for the first time to define such speech.
- Legally speaking, for criminal Sections to be invoked, any such speech has to lead to violence or disturbance of law and order.
What constitutes Hate Speech?
- Hate speech can be defined as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation”.
- The word ‘hate speech’ as is a loaded term and merely criticizing someone is not hate speech.
- There has been much debate over freedom of speech, hate speech and hate speech legislation.
Indian attempts for definition
- The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases.
- It has 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.).
- Earlier in 2018, the Home Ministry had written to the Law Commission to prepare a distinct law for online “hate speech”.
- A committee was formed in the wake of Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000, which provided punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services.
- In 2019, however, the Ministry decided to overhaul the IPC, framed in 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) after seeking suggestions from various stakeholders.
Recommendations of various committees
- The Viswanathan committee proposed inserting Sections 153 C (b) and Section 505 A in the IPC for incitement to commit an offence on grounds of religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribe.
- It proposed punishment by up to two years along with ₹5,000 fine.
- The Bezbaruah Committee was constituted by the Centre in February 2014 in the wake of series of racial attacks on persons belonging to the northeast.
- It proposed amendment to Section 153 C IPC (promoting or attempting to promote acts prejudicial to human dignity), punishable by five years and fine or both and Section 509 A IPC (word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular race), punishable by three years or fine or both.