The Law Commission Report no. 267 of March 2017 on Hate Speech states that “Hate Speech” has not been defined in any law in India. However, legal provisions in certain legislations prohibit select forms of speech as an exception to freedom of speech. The term “Hate Speech” has been used invariably to mean expression which is abusive, insulting, intimidating, harassing or which incites violence, hatred or discrimination against groups identified by characteristics such as one’s race, religion, place of birth, residence, region, language, caste or community, sexual orientation or personal convictions.
By giving tickets to candidates who have been charged with cases related to “Hate Speech” especially promoting enmity between religious groups and for committing acts that are intended to outrage religious feelings, political parties have been in a way abetting circumstances that lead to events such as communal riots and violence between different groups of people. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) have analysed the self- sworn affidavits of all sitting MPs and MLAs. Analysis reveals that many of our current MPs and MLAs, who are designated lawmakers have actually declared cases related to “Hate Speech” against themselves. This analysis is based on the affidavits submitted by the candidates and MPs/MLAs prior to the last election they contested.
The following IPC and RPA sections deal with ‘Hate Speech’ as per the ‘Law Commission Report no. 267 on Hate Speech’:
Provisions under IPC
Ø Section 153A IPC penalises ‘promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’.
Ø Section 153B IPC penalises ‘imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration’.
Ø Section 295A IPC penalises ‘deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’.
Ø Section 298 IPC penalises ‘uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person’.
Ø Section 505(1) and (2) IPC penalises publication or circulation of any statement, rumour or report causing public mischief and enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
Provisions under the Representation of the People Act, 1951
· Section 8 disqualifies a person from contesting election if he/she is convicted for indulging in acts amounting to illegitimate use of freedom of speech and expression.
· Section 123(3A) and section 125 prohibits promotion of enmity on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language in connection with election as a corrupt electoral practice and prohibits it.
1. ADR supports the following recommendations of the Law Commission Report:
a. The Model Code of Conduct given by the Election Commission of India for the guidance of political parties and candidates should be amended to the extent that effect is given to the sub section (3A) of section 123 of the RPA, 1951. The first part of the Code i.e. General Conduct should expressly provide a provision that prohibits any kind of speech that promotes, or attempts to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate.
b. Hate speech poses complex challenges to freedom of speech and expression. Hence, new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address this issue. Amendments to the IPC, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by adding new provisions on ‘Prohibiting incitement to hatred’ provocation of violence in certain cases’ following section 505 IPC, and accordingly amending the First Schedule of CrPC.
2. ADR believes that strict action must be taken against the candidates giving hate speech prior and during the elections, and against the elected legislators even after the elections, if found guilty of indulging in ‘Hate Speech’.
3. Internet is an important tool for disseminating information and opinions however, it also serves as a platform for disseminating unlawful speech. Political parties have been misusing the medium for unlawful statements. Hence, it is recommended that such unlawful statements on online platforms should be monitored and if the person found guilty, they should be penalised.
4. Political Parties must not give tickets to the candidates who have declared serious criminal cases against themselves.
5. Cases against MPs and MLAs should be fast tracked and decided upon in a time bound manner.
Summary and Highlights
A total of 58 Current MPs and MLAs have declared cases related to hate speech.
Sitting MPs with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: 15 Sitting Lok Sabha MPs have declared cases related to Hate Speech against themselves. None of the Rajya Sabha MPs have declared cases related to Hate Speech against themselves.
Party wise MPs with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: 10 Sitting Lok Sabha MPs with declared cases related to Hate Speech are from the BJP, and 1 each is from the AIUDF, TRS, PMK, AIMIM and SHS.
Sitting MLAs with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: 43 sitting MLAs have declared cases related to Hate Speech against themselves.
Party-wise distribution of MLAs with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: 17 Sitting MLAs with declared cases related to Hate Speech are from the BJP, 5 each are from the TRS and AIMIM, 3 are from TDP, 2 each from INC, AITC, JD(U) and SHS, 1 each from DMK, BSP, SP and 2 are Independent MLAs.
State wise MLAs with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: 11 sitting MLAs with declared cases related to Hate Speech are from Telangana. 4 MLAs are from Bihar, 9 MLAs are from Uttar Pradesh, 4 from Maharashtra, 3 each from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, 2 each from Uttarakhand and West Bengal and 1 MLA each from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Jharkhand have declared cases related to Hate Speech against themselves.
Political Party Leaders with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: Political party leaders such as Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) and Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF) have declared cases related to Hate Speech against themselves.
Union Minister with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: Ms Uma Bharti, Union Cabinet Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation has declared cases related to Hate Speech against herself.
State Ministers with Declared Cases related to Hate Speech: There are 8 State ministers who have declared cases related to Hate Speech against themselves.
Recognized/ Unrecognized parties given tickets to candidates with declared cases related to Hate Speech: In the last 5 years, 198 candidates with declared cases related to Hate Speech have contested elections for State Assemblies, Lok/Rajya Sabha. In last 5 years, 141 candidates from Recognized political parties and 29 candidates from Unrecognized political parties have given ticked to such type of candidates.