Context: Recently, the Supreme Court reprimanded the government for its failure to stop hate speech and hate crimes in the country.
About Hate Speech:
- Hate speech is defined as any speech, gesture, conduct, writing, or display that may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by any individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a particular individual or group.
Significance of Curbing Hate Speech:
- It is used to provoke individuals or society to commit acts of terrorism, genocides, ethnic cleansing etc.
- It undermines social equality as it reaffirms historical marginalization, oppression & discrimination.
- It is enacted to cause psychological and physical harm to its victims as it incites violence.
- It is a tool to create panic through rumour mongering against targeted people. For example, the Northeast exodus.
Laws and regulations on hate speech in India: In India, hate speech is regulated by several laws and acts, including the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Indian Information Technology (IT) Act.
- Indian Penal Code (IPC): It contains provisions that prohibit hate speech, such as :
- Section 153A: It deals with actions promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
- Section 295A: It deals with deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
- Section 505: It pertains to statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes)
- Indian Information Technology (IT) Act: It regulates online speech, including hate speech. Under the act, intermediaries such as social media platforms are required to remove content that is in violation of the law within 36 hours of being notified.
- Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): It provides for the arrest of individuals who have committed a cognizable offense, such as hate speech.
- Representation of People’s Act(1951):
- Section 8: It prevents a person convicted of the illegal use of the freedom of speech from contesting an election.
- Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA: It bars the promotion of animosity on the grounds of race, religion, community, caste, or language in reference to elections and includes it under corrupt electoral practices.
- Court Judgements: In the past, The Supreme court of India has issued several judgments on hate speech.
- Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015): The court struck down Section 66A of the IT Act, which had criminalized online speech, stating that it violated the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Sukumar v. State of Tamil Nadu (2019): The court held that hate speech on social media platforms is not protected by the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Freedom of speech: The right to freedom of speech is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution but it is not absolute and can be limited in certain circumstances, such as when it incites violence or discrimination.
- Online Hate speech: The internet has made it easier for hate speech to spread, and many social media platforms have policies in place to address hate speech on their platforms.
- However, the effectiveness of these policies can be limited, and more needs to be done to combat online hate speech.
- Prevention: It begins with education, raising awareness about the harmful effects of hate speech and promoting tolerance and inclusivity.
- In this regard, the government, civil society organizations and communities at large can play a role in preventing hate speech.
Challenges before curbing Hate speech:
- Defining hate speech: There is no universally accepted definition of hate speech, and different countries and cultures have different norms and expectations in this area.
- This makes it difficult to establish clear guidelines for what constitutes hate speech and what does not.
- Addressing hate speech by public figures and politicians: Expression of hate is not limited to anonymous internet users, public figures and politicians also contribute to spreading hate speech.
- However, due to their public platform, it may be challenging to hold them accountable for their statements.
- Identifying and removing hate speech online: The vast majority of hate speech takes place online, and it can be difficult to identify and remove this content.
- Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have struggled to effectively moderate hate speech, and there is no consensus on how to approach this problem.
- Balancing free speech and hate speech: Hate speech laws are often viewed as a restriction on free speech. This can lead to legal challenges and pushback from civil liberties groups.
- Addressing hate speech in non-English languages: Hate speech is not limited to English-speaking countries, and it can be difficult to identify and remove hate speech in other languages. Additionally, cultural and linguistic nuances may not be well understood by those trying to moderate content.
- Lack of resources and legal framework: Many countries lack the resources and legal framework to effectively address hate speech.
- This can make it difficult to enforce laws and regulations, and it can also create a sense of impunity for those who engage in hate speech.
India has a diverse population with different languages, religions, and cultures, thus there is a need to curb incidents of hate speech and crimes that can have a detrimental impact on individuals and communities. It is a complex and multifaceted issue that poses significant challenges for regulators and policymakers which will require a multifaceted approach that includes education, technology, and legal enforcement.
Thus, it becomes important for governments, civil society organizations, and individuals to work together to combat hate speech and promote a more inclusive and tolerant society.
Source: The Hindu