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Business News/ Politics / News/  Congress alleges PM Modi's ‘wealth to Muslims’ jab is ‘hate speech’. Here's what the MCC say about this offence?

Congress alleges PM Modi's ‘wealth to Muslims’ jab is ‘hate speech’. Here's what the MCC say about this offence?

The MCC states in its first paragraph that no party or candidate shall participate in any activity that may aggravate existing differences, create mutual hatred, or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.

PM Modi’s speech sparks row: What does MCC say about ‘hate speech’? (ANI )Premium
PM Modi’s speech sparks row: What does MCC say about ‘hate speech’? (ANI )

Congress President Malikarjun Kharge condemned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on Sunday as ‘hate speech’ and a ‘well-thought-out ploy’ to divert people’s attention during the ongoing Lok Sabha 2024 elections.

During his speech at an election rally in Banswara, Rajasthan, in Rajasthan, PM Modi claimed that the Congress manifesto talks about taking stock of “the gold of mothers and sisters" and distributing that wealth, adding that the then Manmohan Singh government had said Muslims had the first right to the country’s assets. 

“Earlier, when their (Congress) government was in power, they had said that Muslims have the first right on the country's assets. This means to whom will this property be distributed? It will be distributed among those who have more children. It will be distributed to the infiltrators. Should your hard-earned money go to the infiltrators? Do you approve of this?" the PM asked at the rally. 

The speech sparked a row with opposition leaders accusing the Prime Minister of lowering the dignity of his office. “No Prime Minister in the history of India has lowered the dignity of his office as much as Modi." Kharge said.

Sources said the Congress party could approach the Election Commission to draw its attention to PM Modi’s comments.

But what is hate speech, and what does the election model code of conduct (MCC) deal with it?

What is the Model Code of Conduct?

The Model Code of Conduct, or MCC, is a set of guidelines issued to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections. The rules cover issues related to speeches, polling day, polling booths, and general conduct to ensure that free and fair elections are held.

Follow all live updates on Lok Sabha Polls 2024 Here

The Code comes into effect on the day election dates are announced. In the present election season, the MCC came into force on March 16, when the poll panel announced the Lok Sabha polls.

What is hate speech?

There is no legal definition of hate speech in India, and there is no international definition, either. In the absence of a legal definition, the term ‘hate speech’ is often referred to as any kind of communication, whether in speech, writing, or behaviour, that uses discriminatory language regarding a person or a group based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, or descent.

What does the MCC say?

There are no particular guidelines on hate speech in MCC. However, the code prohibits politicians from engaging in any activity that may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred.

“No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences, or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic," reads the MCC’s first paragraph.

What was CEC Rajiv Kumar's advisory to political parties?

While announcing the schedule for the Lok Sabha Election 2024, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, on March 16, advised the political parties against hate speeches, caste or religious appeals, criticism of any aspect of private life, masquerading of advertisements as news and social media posts vilifying or insulting rivals.

Also Read: ‘Nafrat ke ghode ka...’: Opposition castigates PM Modi for ‘hate speech’ in Rajasthan’s Banswara

“I urge parties to refrain from personal attacks and foul language. No-go areas in speeches are defined to maintain civility. Let us not cross lines in our rivalry. We have issued an advisory for the political parties, they are encouraged to foster a political discourse that inspires rather than divides," Kumar said.

What regulates hate speech in India?

In the absence of any specific law governing ‘hate speech’ and ‘rumour-mongering’ during elections, the Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court of India in September 2022 that it employs various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of People’s Act (RP Act)-1951 to ensure that members of the political parties do not make statements that create disharmony between different sections of society.

Section 123 (3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 states, “The appeal by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate to vote or refrain from voting based on his/her religion, race, caste, community, or language is a corrupt electoral practice."

Is MCC a legal binding?

The MCC is not legally binding. It is often criticised for failing to address matters of hate speech. It relies on the RP Act and other provisions in criminal laws to act.

Sanjay Hegde, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, was quoted by the News Minute as saying that the ECI has a vast repository of power under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution. He said it is not that the ECI lacks power; it’s just that they lack the will.

“Even if the ECI sends a notice to PM Modi questioning why they shouldn’t take action, it would send a huge message. If it doesn’t take any action, then it’s a signal for increased speech of this kind, for not just the PM but for others as well," Hegde said.

Have the courts intervened?

There have been instances where the court’s intervention has led to action against those accused of hate speeches.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the Election Commission had barred four political leaders, including the then Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, from campaigning for particular periods after the intervention by the Supreme Court, which called the commission “toothless" for failing to act against political leaders who made polarising speeches.

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was barred for 72 hours and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati for 48 hours after being found guilty of violating the MCC during the election campaign.

During the Telangana assembly elections in 2023, the EC set up a monitoring wing to track objectionable speeches and warned to temporarily ban candidates and leaders who indulged in hate speeches in their election campaigns.

What did the Law Commission say?

In 2014, the Supreme Court had urged the Law Commission of India to consider making recommendations to the Parliament to “strengthen the Election Commission to curb the menace of ‘hate speeches’ irrespective of whenever made".

The Law panel also said that 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."

Also Read: ‘Congress will snatch your wealth and distribute among those with more children’, says PM Modi; Opposition fumes

The law panel had suggested amending the IPC and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) by inserting “new section 153C (Prohibiting incitement to hatred) and section 505A (Causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases)."

In 2020, a plea sought implementation of the law panel report to curtail hate speech during election campaigns.

Famous cases?

The Election Commission banned Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray for six years in the late 1980s for hate speech during his campaigning for the Maharashtra assembly election in 1987.



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Published: 22 Apr 2024, 12:53 PM IST
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