What is hate speech?

Black’s Law dictionary defines hate speech as “speech that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, such as a particular race, specially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke  violence.” The effect or impact of words are considered while deciding as to what is hate speech and what is not. With such a great diversity in India, there are a lot of problems like caste discrimination, racism,  illiteracy, etc. All these problems result in hatred among people. This hatred is presented orally or in written form and it is called hate speech. We all know that article 19(1)(a), that is right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed to all the citizens of India. This article ensures that every individual has a right to express himself or herself freely. But there is a restriction to this very right under article 19(2) which says that public interest has to be safeguard and there are limitations to the freedom of speech and expression in matters affecting:

  1. Sovereignty and integrity of the state
  2. Security of the state
  3. Friendly relations with foreign countries
  4. Public order
  5. Decency and morality
  6. Contempt of court
  7. Defamation
  8. Incitement to an offence

Article 19(2) prohibits the above forms of speech and expression but not hate speech certainly. Hate speech was defined by the Law Commission of India in its 267th  Report as “an insight meant to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like. We certainly don’t have any control over our emotions and most of the times these emotions tend to overflow, but as responsible citizens living in such a diverse country, we have to make sure that our speech or expression does not hurt any individual. It is very important for us to understand that hate speech is not free speech.


Legislations related  to  Hate Speech:

  1. Given under the Indian Penal Code, 1860:

Section  124 A

Section 153  A

Section 153 B

Section 153 C

Section 295 A

Section 298

Section 505 (1) and (2)

  1. Given under the Representation of the People Act, 1951:

Section 8

Section 324

Section 123(3)

Section 123 (3A)

Section 125

  1. Given under The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955:

Section 7

  1. Given under The Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988:

Section 3(g)

  1. Given under The Cable Television Network Regulation Act, 1995:

Sections 5 and 6 of the Act prohibits transmission or retransmission of a program through cable network in contravention to the prescribed program code or advertisement code. These codes have been defined in rule 6 and 7 respectively of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994.

  1. Given under The Cinematograph Act, 1952: Sections 4, 5B and 7 empower the Board of Film Certification to prohibit and regulate the screening of a film.
  2. Given under The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973:

Section 95

Section 107

Section 144

All these laws are not directly related to hate speech but they do fall under the restrictions under article 19(2).


Case Laws:


  1. Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India AIR 2014 SC 159

The petitioners prayed that the State must enact stricter laws and action against the people promoting hate speech. The Court observed that the existing laws were sufficient to deal with the matter of hate speech, but the Law Commission of India considered the appeal of the petitioner and presented its report number 267 to the Government of India in 2017 for consideration. This report defined hate speech.

  1. Subramaniam Swami v Union of India W.P. (Crl) 184 of 2014.

Section 499 and 500 of IPC which talk about defamation and its punishment were challenged as unconstitutional to article 19(1)(a). The petitioner argued that about half a dozen sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were violative of article 19(1)(a).

So as observed in the above two cases, the concept of hate speech in India is not very clear. The people participating in spreading such hate escape and the victims keep on demanding stricter laws for their safety.


On line Hate Speech

Social media is the biggest platform for individuals to express themselves. But this also makes social media a place where there is a lot of abuse and hate. Online speech can be very offensive and hurt a lot of people. As discussed above how hate speech is restricted under the freedom of speech and expression, but the laws about it are hardly defined. The crux of the problem is that what may be hate speech socially, may not be hate speech legally. That is why it is very tough to deal with matters of hate speech. Hate speech is more of a societal problem. Hate speech on social media is so common that majority of the people tend to ignore such hate and try to move past it. Celebrities and social media influencers get the maximum hate online. They are trolled daily by fake accounts on social media. Fake news and hate speech are often related to caste, sex, religion and all other sensitive topics like body shaming, racism, violence, boys locker room, etc. Today’s generation objectifies people as fat, skinny, pale, dark, etc. They body shame women and call them names and some haters even morph pictures of girls and spread them all over the social media. All this hatred often drives the victim into a state of depression where they feel anxious, hopeless and scared. We must not hate on others for absolutely no reason because it affects the mental health of that person the most!


Other relevant cases:

  1. Shreya singhal v Union of India W.P. (CRL.) NO.167 OF 2012.

Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, 2000 was challenged as unconstitutional to article 19(1)(a). The Court struck down section 66A of the IT Act which prescribed punishment for sending offensive messages online. It was held that the section in its entirety was violative of article 19(1)(a).

  1. Kanhaiya Kumar v State of NCT of Delhi W.P.(CRL) 558/2016 & Crl.M.A. Nos.3237/2016 & 3262/2016.

Some students of Jawaharlal Nehru University organised an event on the parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013. The event was a protest through poetry, art and music against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru. Allegations of some students shouting anti-Indian slogans were made and a case was filed under section 124A, 120B and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The University’s Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested but was released on bail since there was no evidence and his role in the protest was not clear.

  1. S Rangarajan v P Jagjivan Ram

In this case a division bench of the Madras High Court revoked the U- certificate granted to a Tamil film that dealt with the controversy and problems of caste. This decision was challenged by the petitioner. The court held that freedom of expression cannot be suppressed unless the situation is dangerous to the public interest.

All these cases reflect that in India the words used by the people are heard first and then reacted upon.



Hate speech is not something which people can ignore easily and move on. It has a great impact on the victim’s mind. Some victims may be very weak to handle the hate they get which leads them to take drastic steps like hurting themselves. We as humans have to understand that our words may hurt someone’s feelings way more than we interpret. The victims of hate speech may never be able to look at themselves the same and live in fear of hating themselves their entire life.

There are some steps that can be taken to reduce hate speech:

  1. People must be made aware about the consequences of hate speech on the victim as well as the perpetrator.
  2. Education is very important because if people are well educated, they won’t indulge in activities like trolling and hating on others over social media.
  3. The regulations related to hate speech are very scattered in different codes making it not very strict and therefore confusing. So, a uniform code must be made which regulates hate speech and these laws should be stricter then the present ones.

In India, with such a diverse population, people often get confused between hate speech and free speech. Therefore, it is very important that the difference between the two is clear and we think carefully before we speak anything. We must not spread hate because the world definitely needs more peace right now.


  1. https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/m.hindustantimes.com/analysis/it-is-time-to-regulate-hate-speech-on-social-media/story-x2JfnAcZ4mh404CM2wQLpO_amp.html
  2. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1056-hate-speech-in-india.html
  3. https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/criminallawstudiesnluj.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/the-peril-of-hate-speech-in-india/amp/



13 thoughts on “HATE SPEECH

  1. Well written article which have explained the difference between hate speech and free speech which is given as a right to freedom of speech under article 19 of the constitution. Many people use it as a wrong way and this leads to harm to the victim and awareness about this must be done so that people can understand the difference between hate speech and free speech.

  2. Relative study of free speech and hate speech and their distinction. Article also cited relevant legislations and case for making the understanding more practical.

  3. It is indeed a very well-written article. The best part about this article is that the learned writer has shown a great nexus between the Constitutional Provisions and how hate speech affects various Fundamental Rights which are guaranteed to the citizens under Part III of the Constitution of India. The article is well-structured, short and concise and touches upon all possible aspects on cyber crimes online relating to hate speech and very smoothly draws a rational nexus between the provisions of the Constitution and other laws that govern the making of hate speeches. The only thing, I believe, that the writer should have incorporated is that, while stating down the various provisions of laws that deal with hate speech, instead of just providing the section, it would be really great if the writer could explain in one line as to exactly what does the provision being referred to explains.

  4. Well written article , well defined the difference between hate speech and free speech, the right of freedom of speech.

  5. Very well explained hate speech. Many people are mostly not aware of about the provisions of law relating to the the hate speech. Very good and informative article . Only I had one problem , only the sections were mentioned , it would have been better if each were shown how it linked with the topic

  6. Very well, nicely and researched article. The article here is deeply researched. The sections mentioning, their link with hate speech still needed to be explained atleast at wider level. How hate speech with such approach can even help a layman, know about these legislations are as well as how they deal with the topic. The article here brings out the diversity of knowledge, great and wider attempt of the writer. The judicial pronouncements add stars and authority to the article, to what the writer is trying to say. There should be more suggestions on part of writer to explain that when a lot of people face hate speech on higher stake, on day to day basis, what should be done? like establishment of a Separate Tribunal with speedy justice deliver system to help such victims on day to day basis to curb such crimes, etc.

  7. This article seems to be a good, concise, and nice explanation of the concept of hate speech. We having been facing many instances of hate speech and people should understand the difference between hate speech and free speech. There are people who are directly spreading hate among the communities in our country by giving false statements which are not suitable in our society.

  8. very informative article about the Indian laws against Hate speech. As i am writing this the world is under lockdown due to COVID -19 and the numerous incidents of hate speech against various communities , governments etc. seems to be more dominant than ever before . Recently some media anchors have also been charged for spreading community hatred . Hate speech is topic we all must be reluctant to as the only thing it does is to spread disharmony . People should be made to understand what they should do and what they don’t more often .

  9. Yeah Its Important For understand What Is law Exactly..Law Is For Protect Our Self We need To Respect Law.Hate speech Is Big Isshu.We Have freedom But We Dont Have Any right To Harm Someones Emotion..We Need to take care Everytime What We Doing And What We Are Saying What is Impact of this we need to take care of this things

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