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Hurt Sentiments, Hate Crimes and Punishment

Context

There should be no tolerance for violence motivated by “hurt feelings” caused by hate speech. Recent incidences of persons being killed for offending sentiments in Udaipur (Rajasthan) and Amravati (Maharashtra) cast doubt on India’s secular foundation.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States

pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Mains Question

Hate speech in India is facilitated by a number of circumstances. Discuss the impact of hate speech in this context, as well as suggestions for dealing with it effectively.

Dimensions of the article

  1. Hate speech in India
  2. Reasons behind hate speech
  3. Laws and Punishment on hate speech

What is Hate Speech:

In general, it refers to comments with the goal of instilling hatred in a specific group, which could be a community, religion, or race. This speech may or may not have significance, but it will almost certainly result in violence.

Major Reasons of Hate Speech:

  • Individuals believe in preconceptions that are ingrained in their thoughts, and these stereotypes cause them to assume that a class or group of people are inferior to them and, as such, cannot have the same rights as them.
  • Stubbornness to a Specific Ideology: Sticking to a specific ideology without regard for the freedom to coexist peacefully adds fuel to the flames of hate speech.

Hate Speech and Indian Laws:

  • The rationality of the right to express oneself is clearly stated in India’s legislation on freedom of expression.
  • However, the legislation does not explicitly define hate speech, which is directed at communities and intended to incite community animosity.
  • However, there are elements in the legislation that can be regarded as allowing for the criminalization of hate speech offences, particularly those that are likely to inspire violence.
  • There have been legitimate calls, including from India’s Law Commission, to include specific provisions in the Indian Penal Code to combat hate speech.
  • It is critical that policymakers act on this, especially in the age of internet media and messaging, where hate speech events have grown into an even bigger problem.
  • That being said, there is no need for any sort of hate speech to be met with violence.
  • Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will not, as the old proverb says. There should be no tolerance for violence.

Legal Position of Hate Speech:

Under Indian Penal Code:

  • IPC Sections 153A and 153B: Punishes acts that incite animosity and hostility between two groups.
  • Section 295A of the IPC: Deals with punishing acts that intentionally or maliciously offend a group of people’s religious sentiments.
  • Sections 505(1) and 505(2) make it an offence to publish or distribute content that may incite ill will or hatred amongst various communities.

Under Representation of People’s Act:

  • Section 8 of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951 (RPA) prohibits a person convicted of using free speech illegally from contesting an election.
  • Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA prohibit the promotion of hatred based on race, religion, community, caste, or language in relation to elections and classify it as corrupt electoral practises.

Suggestion for Changes in IPC:

Viswanathan Committee 2019:

  • It recommended amending the IPC to include Sections 153 C (b) and 505 A for inducement to commit an offence based on religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, domicile, language, disability, or tribe.
  • It advocated a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of Rs. 5,000.

Bezbaruah Committee 2014:

  • It proposed amending Section 153 C of the IPC (promoting or attempting to promote acts prejudicial to human dignity), punishable by five years in prison and a fine, or both, and Section 509 A of the IPC (word, gesture, or act intended to insult a member of a particular race), punishable by three years in prison and a fine, or both.

The Two Cases

  • In both cases, suspects who were offended by the statements resorted to violence in response to what they saw as an insult to their religion.
  • The National Investigation Agency is looking into the two cases.
  • The perpetrators, those engaged in the planning and execution of these killings, must be brought to justice and punished severely.

What should be done?

  • Even as these hate crimes are investigated, the Union and State governments must promptly reassure residents of the importance of communal amity and that those who spread hate speech and engage in violence in reprisal will be prosecuted.
  • Justice and the rule of law must not only be seen to be applied, but must also be applied fairly and without bias toward or against specific communities.
  • The Union and State governments should not impose coercive measures on communities by deploying enforcement authorities to punish them collectively for individual acts of transgression.
  • Political parties of all stripes, particularly those in power, must avoid from inciting communal animosity.
  • Governments must reorient themselves to the rule of law and strict devotion to constitutional norms in order to protect the country’s secular fabric at all costs.

Way forward

  • Education is the most effective means of reducing animosity. Our educational system plays an important role in creating and understanding compassion for others.
  • The fight against hate speech cannot be compartmentalised. It should be debated on a larger stage, such as the United Nations. This threat should be addressed by every responsible country, regional body, and other international and regional actors.
  • Cases of hate speech can be addressed through Alternative Dispute Resolution, which offers a change from lengthy judicial procedures to the resolution of disputes between parties through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and/or conciliation.
  • Furthermore, public officials must be held accountable for dereliction of duty of care as well as non-compliance with this court’s orders by failing to take action to prevent vigilante groups from inciting communal disharmony, spreading hatred against citizens of the country, and taking the law into their own hands.

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September 2022
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