​​Hate Speech

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Heard about Nupur Sharma’s statement and how it has shaken the nation? It hurt the sentiments of so many people; there were rallies and demonstrations all over the country. It was the first time that Indian goods were banned abroad. The controversy had reached the peak of international pressure on the Indian government to take action against Nupur Sharma. Now, what is the Nupur Sharma’s Controversy? In this article, we will focus on What is hate speech? What is the major reason for hate speech? How does India deal with Blasphemy? What are the legal provisions for hate speech? And Supreme Court’s take on Nupur Sharma’s controversial remark.

What is Hate Speech?

Hate speech means words that create hatred or enmity towards a particular group, community, race, or religion. Such terms result in violence.
The Bureau of Police Research and Development has defined ‘Hate Speech’ in its manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases. Hate speech means a language that insults, targets, threatens or denigrates an individual depending on their identity or other attributes such as disability, religious belief or sexual orientation, etc.
The 267th Report of the Law Commission of India has defined ‘hate speech’ as an incitement that creates hatred specifically against a group of people defined in terms of religious belief, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

To understand whether a speech is a hate speech or not, it is essential to know the context.

In India, the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a), where everyone is free to express their opinion. While hate speech is an exception to it.

What are the significant reasons for hate speech?

The primary reasons for hate speech are:

  • Feeling of Superiority: People believe in stereotypes, which are ingrained in their minds, making them think that their class or group is superior. Therefore, all other class or group is inferior, and therefore, such other class or group of people cannot have the same rights as theirs.
  • Stubbornness to specific ideology: People get stuck to a specific ideology or belief and do not care about the right to live together peacefully, which further adds to creating hate speech.

Hate speech examples

Hate speech is mostly used during elections to get sympathy in the name of caste, religion, and region. Though delivering hate speech is an offence, it is used immensely and has become part of the political agenda. Some of the instances of hate speech are:

  • Recently, a Minister had warned the people to cast in his favour or else he would use bulldozers for those who cast against him. Once he was elected, people would have to chant his name if they wanted to stay or else they would have to leave the state and go away.
  • In another instance, it was stated that the voting rights of Indian Muslims should be taken away, and they should be treated as second-class citizens.
  • Furthermore, the slogans like “goli maaro” were used in a rally which was conducted to protest against “traitors” and “terrorists” who protested against the CAA (Citizen Amendment Act) and NRC (National Register of Citizens).

Use of social media

With the advancement of technology, social media is not an exception once hate speech is triggered. It is spread everywhere, be it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. There are instances of hate speech videos being circulated which adds to the fuel and creates disharmony and hatred among people.

  • In another instance where an AIMIM leader delivered a hate speech threatening to eliminate Hindus in 15 minutes if the police leave for some time. He had also tried to incite people to join together and rule over the country.
  • Hate Speech is not only restricted to political issues, it is used against sports persons. Recently, an Indian fast bowler was targeted with hate speech on social media, when India lost the ICC World Cup match which was against Pakistan in Dubai. The cricketer was not only trolled and abused but also many derogatory statements were passed against him on Instagram and Twitter.

How does India deal with Blasphemy?

Blasphemy means speech or actions considered contemptuous of people, God, or other sacred objects. Merriam Webster defines Blasphemy as the act that insults or shows contempt or lacks reverence for God. Many countries, mainly the Middle East, have adopted Blasphemy laws that provide harsh punishments for offences against religion

India is a diversified country with various religions, languages, castes, and regions. People tend to love and respect their faith and look down upon other beliefs. As discussed above, there are many instances of hate speech; people are becoming intolerant towards other religions and tend to insult and outrage the religious feelings of others.

In India, there is no such specific blasphemy law. However, to deal with Blasphemy, the legislature has enacted Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which acts as blasphemy law. Section 295A has put forward punishment for deliberate and malicious acts done to outrage religious feelings of any religion or religious beliefs”.

Legal Provisions relating to hate speech

Section 153A and Section 153B of the Indian Penal Code

Under these sections, any person who indulges in violence upon any particular religion, caste, community, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. of any class or group or founders and prophets of religion, or promotes enmity, hatred, disharmony between people belonging to a different religion, region, caste, community, or engages in offences of moral turpitude, then such person shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine, or with both. Any offences that are committed at the place of worship shall be punished for up to five years or with a fine or both.

Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code

Any person who intends to insult a particular class or religious group causes destruction, defilement, or damages a place of worship or sacred object. Such person shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to two years or/and with a fine.

Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code

Any deliberate or malicious act with the intention to outrage or insult the religious belief or feelings of a particular class or group of people belonging to a particular religion. Such actions can be written, oral, by signs or visible representation, or otherwise. In such circumstances, the police have the power to arrest the person without a warrant.

Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code: Statement conducting to public mischief

Section 505 (2) any person who makes, circulates or publishes any report or statement that contains any rumour or news that creates an alarm to create a feeling of enmity, hatred, and ill-will among the people belonging to different caste or religion, language, region, community or caste, then such person shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or/and fine.

Section 505 (3) Any person who commits an offence in a place of worship or religious assembly used for conducting any religious ceremony or worship, then such person shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years and a fine.

Representation of People’s Act, 1951

Section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, prevents a convicted person from using hate speech to contest an election.

Section 123(3A) and 125 of Representation of People’s Act, 1951 bans the promotion of hostility on the grounds of religion, race, community, language, or caste during elections. It has added it under corrupt electoral practices.

What is Nupur Sharma’s Controversy?

Nupur Sharma, an ex-BJP spokesperson, had made a controversial remark about Prophet Muhammed on a news channel in a media debate on the Gyanvapi Masjid issue. In the discussion, she justified her remark by stating that it was a response to those making fun of Shivling. In no time, the debate video had gone viral and had sparked controversy throughout the country. The anger against Nupur Sharma led to strong violence and demonstrations where people demanded to arrest her for her controversial statement.

Furthermore, the Gulf countries had banned Indian products and demanded an apology for such a statement. Henceforth, Nupur Sharma was removed from the BJP. She issued an apology for her statement and withdrew her controversial remark. However, this is not the end; there were many FIR lodged against her from different states, including Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Delhi.

Supreme Court’s take on Nupur Sharma’s controversial remark

Nupur Sharma had filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to transfer all cases against her to Delhi as she had a security threat. The Supreme Court had stated as follows:

She has become a threat to the country by igniting the people’s emotions and is responsible for the violence in the country. Therefore, the TV channels should not discuss any sub-judice matters. She has no right to make any statement that disrespects the law of the land. The Supreme Court further said that the Udaipur incident was an outburst reaction to her opinion. Hence, the Supreme Court had refused to grant interim relief and had asked to approach the High Courts.


India is a democratic country with unity in diversity as essential features of the Constitution. The diversified culture, traditions, customs, and rituals are the beauty of our country. If we do not respect and tolerate other religions, cultures, regions, etc., then this democracy would have no meaning. Hate speech – talking wrong about other religions, regions, caste, etc., should not be given importance. What is important is the unity of the people. Therefore, educating people about loving and respecting other religions, customs, and traditions is very important. We are making people aware that hate speech is a punishable offense and the consequences of such action. Remember, who will think about the economy if people keep fighting over petty issues? What impact will it have on our future generation? Let us focus on the betterment of our country, preserving our culture, understanding the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech, and tolerating one another.


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