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Written by Kamalini, SASTRA Deemed University


The Internet has massively developed in the past twenty years and due to the development, the entire world has become a global village. The Internet has changed the notions that the things were being perceived, has been a great platform for the development of human beings. As every coin has two sides, there are certain disadvantages in using the internet. The hate speech and hate comments are the major problems faced by many users. This article aims to bring out a balance between freedom of speech and hate comments, legal solutions that are possible and tries to provide an overview of how the freedom of speech has developed in our country.


The Internet is helping users in lots of modes. Internet is used as an important platform to convey information regarding every happening around the world. The Internet is even used by many politicians to make their propaganda famous and to gain votes. Internet is also used as the main platform during protests and rebellions as it has a lot of users. There are lots of information conveyed across the globe and some of which may affect a certain community or a set of people and sometimes it is offensive as a whole which disrupts the peace and security of the country. Thus hate speech plays an important role in the peacekeeping of any country and thus it is important to keep them in control and at the same time allow the users to express their opinions as they have rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and other constitutions across the world which guarantees their citizen freedom to express opinions.


Freedom of speech and expression is considered an important right for the citizens of our country and this is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) in the Indian Constitution. This right is also mentioned in the Universal Declaration of human rights; Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of human rights (UDHR) states that

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 16(1) of the South African bill of rights also guarantees freedom of expression. It states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes

(a) freedom of the press and other media;

(b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;

(c) freedom of artistic creativity; and

(d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research”[1]

Various other countries guarantee this freedom of speech and expression and at the same time these rights are guaranteed with some exceptions and regulations, so it does not apply to every communication and information delivered. The information published or conveyed if it tends to cause disturbances or creates war and if it tends o=to be defamatory those kinds of speeches and information will not come under these guaranteed rights. There is a very small difference between freedom of speech and hate speech and the author or the person who delivers or posts such information must be aware of the same to prevent any legal consequences in the future.


There are lots of penal provisions that deal with this concept of hate speech. There is a restriction for freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2). There are reasonable restrictions that are imposed considering various factors like security, integrity, and foreign relations. public order, decency or morality or about contempt of court, defamation, or provocation of an offence. There are various acts including People’s representation act, the cinematograph act, and criminal procedure code also talks about hate speech other than the Indian Penal Code. The law commission report 267 was primarily dedicated to deal with this concept and this report also tried to define what constitutes hate speech.

Section 5 and Section 6 of the Cable television regulation Act 1995 forbids transmission or re-transmission of a programme through cable network in violation of the recommended programme code or commercial. Section 4 and Section 5b gives the regulation board certain powers to stop the screening of the film as it may promote violence and it contains hate speech against a particular community. We are aware of various films that went through this issue and were stopped from screening as it promotes hate speech.

In-State of Maharasthra v. Sangharaj Damodar Rupawate[2], the Court observed that the effect of the words used in the offending material must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men, and not those of weak and vacillating minds, nor of those who scent danger in every hostile point of view.

In the case of Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India[3], the Court noted that the issue of ‘confining the prohibition to a manageable standard and the trepidation that coming up with a definite standard might lead to curbing of free speech’.

In the case of Babu Rao Patel v. the State of Delhi [4], the Court held that Section 153A(1) IPC is not confined to the elevation of the feeling of hatred only on the grounds of religion only, but takes into account promotion of such feelings on other grounds like race and caste as well.

In another famous case, Arumugam Seervai v. State of Tamil Nadu, use of words pallar and parayar against the Scheduled tribes and Scheduled communities were considered to be offensive as the Court went through the history of usage of such words and the Supreme Court upheld the prosecution under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.[5]

Thus, there are lots of judgments and acts with various views and restrictions but there is no proper definition of the term, this problem was noted in the law commission report 267 and it tried to define the term and come up with the solution for this never-ending issue. The problem of defining becomes more complicated considering the internet era as it too hard to differentiate humour content and offensive comments. It is also difficult to track the owner or user of the particular account considering various aspects like fake user names and email addresses.


There were two main suggestions in the Criminal law amendment bill 2017, they were inserting two Sections 153B and 505. The older sections in various acts do not cover a wide ambit and it has pertained to political and communal hatred. There are also lots of individuals who are affected by hate speech and it is important that they also get a solution for the issue.

The newly proposed Section 153C deals with providing incitement to hatred where whoever on ay grounds like race, caste or religion, uses gravely threatening words or visual representations and advocates hatred by words either spoken or written, signs, visible representations is punishable with fine and imprisonment. Though there is no clear definition of hate speech these newly proposed Sections cover a certain ambit and there are certain questions and steps followed by the judiciary to determine whether they would constitute hate speech.


Certain suggestions can be followed to avoid the issue

  • The statements which are humourous to certain people can be offensive to others so know your audience and don’t mention anything even if there is a chance if it hurts the sentiments of the person

  • The users of the internet must try to avoid using obscene and offensive languages, if the content is inappropriate there is a report option in every social media and the websites will take actions on the report very quickly

  • If you are not comfortable with the content or if you find offensive you can unfollow or mute the creator instead of giving a reply which would lead to more hate comments and is a waste of time.


The scientific inventions are for the betterment of society and the life of human beings and if they become a threat to the life of human beings there is a necessity to bring in restriction. The hate speech across the internet has led to a lot of damages, in some cases, it has led to conflict between communities, loss of life and damage to property, etc and the saddest part of it is most of the news are fake and it is purported only to develop hate between various communities. Thus, it is important to know how to use the freedom of speech and the right has to be used in such a manner in which it does not offend any person. There is no harm in providing constructive criticism but it is harmful to offend people’s notions and the idea of different communities. The veracity of news must also be verified before sharing the news in your stream. Thus, it constitutes hate speech even if it affects a small portion of this society and the users of the internet have to be careful in expressing their opinions.

[1] Article 16 of South African bill of rights [2] 2010 7 SCC 398 [3] A.I.R 2014 SC 1591 [4] A.I.R 1980 SC 763. [5] 2011 6 S.C 405



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