Hate speech, IPC Sec 295A, and how courts have read the law

Section 295A of IPC: The recent controversy over the remarks made by BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal has drawn attention to the law that governs criticism of or disrespect to religion.

Key Points:

  • The BJP today took action against two-party leaders over their controversial remarks against a particular community by suspending spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelling Delhi Unit media head Naveen Jindal from the party.
  • Nupur Sharma was booked under sections 153A, 153 B, 295A, 298 and 505 of the IPC which means a case has been registered against her for 'promoting enmity, outraging religious feelings, ‘uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person, ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of a class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, and other offences.

Hate Speech Legislation:

  • There is no formal legal framework for dealing with hate speech in India.
  • But a collection of clauses that go by the name of "hate speech laws" are used.
  • These laws are largely intended to address offences against religions.
  • The provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), primarily Section 295A, define and prescribe punishment for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

About Section 295A of IPC:

  • As per the Constitution of India, Section 295A states that whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by songs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  • Section 295A IPC is a cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence and police can register an FIR anywhere in the country at the instance of purportedly aggrieved complainants.