Hate speech is violent in itself and must be called out 

News: Recently, the chief priest of an ashram in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district publicly threatened sexual violence against Muslim women. It implies that the Hate speech has become a frequent phenomenon in public sphere of India. 

Why hate speech is a big issue? 

It has become one of the biggest challenges to the rule of law and to our democratic conscience. It is anti-constitutional and anti-secular in India. 

It is at the root of many forms of violence.  

Hate Speech laws in India 

The Sections 153A, 295A and 298 under the IPC criminalises “the promotion of enmity between different groups of people on grounds of religion and language, alongside acts that are prejudicial to maintaining communal harmony”. 

Section 505 of the IPC criminalises speech/statements intended/likely to induce fear or alarm to the public, instigate/incite public disorder, class or community violence and inter-community hatred.  

Section 125 of the Representation of People Act makes promoting feelings of enmity and hatred on grounds of religion and caste, punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fine or both.  

What have been issues in combating hate speech in India? 

In recent years, hate speech and disinformation campaign, has been mediatised i.e., acquired a systemic presence in the media, and social media platforms (like Facebook and YouTube Platform).

2018 was considered as “the year of online hate”. There have been anti-minority sentiments on these platforms. 

There is a lack of political will, blatant inefficiency and bias of the administration.

For example, In 2019, the SC reprimanded the Election Commission for not taking action against hate speech during the election. The ECI responded by saying that it had limited powers to take action in this matter. In fact, there has been shocking apathy of the judiciary as it has not taken any stand against it 

The hate speech is increasingly used for electoral mobilisation along communal lines across India. 

Ways Forward 

The Indian republic should be committed to working within the framework of constitutional democracy and the rule of law. 

Hate speech, in itself, must be understood and treated as a violent act. Hate speech must be unambiguously condemned and the law must take its course.  

The Law Commission in its 267th report recommended introduction of new provisions within the penal code that specifically punish incitement to violence. 

The Supreme Court should act decisively in response to allegations of hate speech in the judicial cases. 

The EC must assume more responsibility related hate speech during the election period. 

The media should play the real role of watchdog. 

Source: The post is based on an article “Hate speech is violent in itself and must be called out” published in the Indian Express on 15th Apr 22. 

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