Hate Speech & Freedom of Speech

Hate speech is incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like.

Thus, hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.

Hate speech poses complex challenges to freedom of speech and expression.

  • In March 2017, the Law Commission, led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.S. Chauhan,recommended inserting two new provisions in the IPC, including speech that instills “fear or alarm” in the listeners, probably goading them to violence.

Amendments suggested

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017 suggested by the Commission proposes to add

  • Section 153C (prohibiting incitement to hatred)
  • Section 505A (causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases) in the IPC and
  • make the necessary changes in the Criminal Procedure Code.


  • The global disparity in the treatment of hate speech, the Commission reasons, may be because they apprehend that setting a standard for determining unwarranted speech may lead to suppression of free speech and expression.
  • Also hate speech may perpetuate the deep rooted notions and prejudices. Thus the attitudes got formed which are harmful.
  • It also disturbs the discourse by preventing real issues to crop up.
  • It tends to neglect the minority views thus hampering democratic framework
  • It creates stress , trauma,fear in the minds of people , among different communities,religion etc.

Question for Answer Writing

Q: Hate speech poses complex challenges to freedom of speech and expression. Examine the recommendations made by the Law Commission to address hate speeches.

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