Hate Speech / The Revival of Ray LVI

Amish Devgan hosts ‘Aar Paar’ on News18 India and ‘Takkar’ on CNBC Awaaz.

It remains difficult in law to draw the outmost bounds of freedom of speech and expression, the limit beyond which the right would fall foul and can be subordinated to other democratic values and public law considerations, so as to constitute a criminal offence. A universal definition of ‘hate speech’ remains difficult, except for one commonality that ‘incitement to violence’ is punishable. It is necessary to draw a distinction between ‘free speech’, which includes the right to comment, favor or criticize, and ‘hate speech’ creating or spreading hatred against a targeted community or group. The object of criminalizing the latter is to protect dignity and to ensure political and social equality between different identities. In the context of ‘hate speech’, it would certainly require the actual utterance of words or something more than thought which would constitute the content. Without actual utterance, it would be mere thought and thoughts without overt act is not punishable. In a polity committed to pluralism, ‘hate speech’ cannot conceivably contribute in any legitimate way to democracy and, in fact, repudiates the right to equality.

Hon’ble Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Amish Devgan v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 160 of 2020].