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Panel to define offences of speech, expression

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Panel to define offences of speech, expression:


As there is no clear definition of what constitutes a “hate speech” in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws is attempting for the first time to define such speech.

  • The committee is expected to submit its report soon.

Has it been defined anywhere else?

The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases that 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.).”

Need for a standard definition:

Legally speaking, for criminal Sections to be invoked, any hate speech has to lead to violence or disturbance of law and order. However, even merely criticising someone is being termed hate speech. This is happening as there is no proper definition for this.

About the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws:

In 2019, the Home Ministry decided to overhaul the IPC, framed in 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) after seeking suggestions from States, the Supreme Court, High Courts, the Bar Council of India, Bar Councils of States, universities and law institutes on comprehensive amendments to criminal laws.

  • The committee thus formed is examining a gamut of subjects pertaining to reforms in the IPC.
  • The committee has decided that instead of ad hoc changes, all the pending issues such as those on hate speech as recommended by the Viswanathan committee can be examined and comprehensive changes are brought in.

What are the factors giving rise to hate speech?

The primary reason for the propagation of hate speech by individuals is that they believe in stereotypes that are ingrained in their minds and these stereotypes lead them to believe that a class or group of persons are inferior to them and as such cannot have the same rights as them.

  • The stubbornness to stick to a particular ideology without caring for the right to co-exist peacefully adds further fuel to the fire of hate speech.

Hate speech threatens two key doctrines of democracy:

  1. The guarantee of equal dignity to all.
  2. The public good of inclusiveness.

What should be the criteria to identify hate speech?

  • The extremity of the speech.
  • Incitement
  • Status of the author of the speech.
  • Status of victims of the speech.
  • Potentiality of the speech.
  • Context of the Speech.

The penal provisions which relate to this aspect are as follows:

  1. Sections 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) punish acts that cause enmity and hatred between two groups.
  2. Section 295A of the IPC deal with punishing acts which deliberately or with malicious intention outrage the religious feelings of a class of persons.
  3. Sections 505(1) and 505(2) make the publication and circulation of content which may cause ill-will or hatred between different groups an offence.
  4. Section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (RPA) prevents a person convicted of the illegal use of the freedom of speech from contesting an election.
  5. Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA bar the promotion of animosity on the grounds of race, religion, community, caste, or language in reference to elections and include it under corrupt electoral practices.





Prelims Link:

  1. Has hate speech been defined under the IPC?
  2. Regulatory provisions related to hate speech.
  3. Exceptions to freedom of speech under article 19.
  4. Section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 (RPA).
  5. Relevant Supreme Court judgments related to hate speeches.

Mains Link:

Why there is a need to define hate speech? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.