New Delhi: The Law Commission of India recommended tougher norms for discouraging hate speech, in a report made available on its official website on Friday.
The report suggested adding new provisions to make speech inciting hatred and speech that causes fear, alarm or provocation of violence, a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
“The Law Commission of India is of the considered opinion that new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address the issues," it said in its 53-page report.
The panel, headed by former Supreme Court judge B.S. Chauhan, submitted the report to the government on 23 March.
The report sought to provide “watertight compartments to deal with various acts related to hate speech", as existing sections do not have such clauses.
The provision regarding incitement to hatred says that “gravely threatening words either spoken or written, signs, visible representations" which cause fear or alarm on grounds of “religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribe" will be punishable by two years in prison and Rs5,000 fine.
A second provision on “causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence" will also be punishable by a one-year jail term and a fine of Rs5,000.
The commission’s report was in response to a reference from the Supreme Court to make appropriate recommendations to “curb the menace of hate speech".
“To the extent that the Law Commission proposes a protection for sexual orientation and proscribes hate speech which can victimize or intimidate minorities, I think it is quite progressive. Ideally, it would have been best if hate speech were regulated without reference to penal law, in the present climate where self- regulation seems to be impossible to achieve. It would be fine to permit the criminalization of hate speech provided that the onus is firmly on the prosecution to establish the intention of the offender without any subjective interpretation," said lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan.
Chinmayi Arun, executive director at Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University, Delhi, said, “Ideally the Law Commission should look at institutional failure and strategies beyond criminalization of speech since despite the extensive criminal provisions, hate speech continues to proliferate in India."