NEW DELHI: A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking direction to the Centre to implement a Law Commission's report which suggested changes in penal and procedural laws to effectively deal with the offence of hate speech.
The filing of the PIL, which might be taken up within few days, assumed significance as the Delhi High Court has been critical of some of the alleged hate speeches made by politicians ahead of massive rioting in north-east Delhi in which 35 persons have died so far and around 200 injured.
BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, in his PIL, has sought a direction to the ministries of home and law and justice to implement the 267th report of the Law Commission, prepared in March 2017, on hate speech.
The apex court in 2014 had asked it to examine if it "deems proper to define hate speech and make recommendations to the Parliament to strengthen the Election Commission to curb the menace of 'hate speeches' irrespective of, whenever made."
Analysing existing Indian and offshore laws on the subject, the report had said, "Law Commission of India is of considered opinion that new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address the issues".
The panel had suggested amendment in 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)".
"Hate speech poses complex challenges to freedom of speech and expression. The constitutional approach to these challenges has been far from uniform as the boundaries between impermissible propagation of hatred and protected speech vary across jurisdictions," the report had said and referred to the legal position in countries like the USA, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
The report also said that hate speech "generally is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief".
The Law panel also said that the 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".
The PIL alleged inaction on the part of the Centre since 2017 and sought a direction for the implementation of the report.
"Responsible speech is the essence of the liberty granted under article 21 of the Constitution.
One of the greatest challenges before the principle of autonomy and free speech principle is to ensure that this liberty is not exercised to the detriment of any individual or the disadvantaged section of the society," the plea said.
It said that in a country like India, which has diverse castes, creed, religions and languages, hate speech poses a greater challenge.