Source: ProBono India
The Chhattisgarh High Court redirected a case of hate speech against the Christian Religion to the district court which had territorial jurisdiction to hear the case.
What does the right to freedom of speech and expression mean?
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution gives all citizens the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. This means that every citizen has the right to express their own beliefs and opinions freely through writing, printing, pictures, word of mouth (orally) or any other mode.
This right includes:
- the freedom of the press
- the right to communicate and circulate information through any medium including print media, audio, television broadcast or electronic media
- the right to receive and access information which helps in forming an informed opinion
Is the freedom of speech and expression absolute?
The freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute right, and the Government can reasonable restrict it under Article 19(6) on the following grounds:
- Security of the country
- Friendly relations with foreign countries
- Public order, decency, or morality
- Against contempt of court, defamation, or instigation of any offence.
Is hate speech a ground for restriction of the freedom of speech and expression?
In addition to the constitutional restrictions, there are criminal restrictions, such as defamation and sedition. Hate speech is not explicitly mentioned in criminal law, but elements of it can be seen in some sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
Can you be punished for hurting religious sentiments?
Sections 295A and 298 of the IPC prohibit any speech or expression which may hurt the religious sentiments of a person or which degrade the religion. Additionally, section 153A and 153B of the IPC prohibit speech and expression which marginalises any religious or other identity group by either promoting enmity against it or claiming that the persons of that group are not equal citizens of India.