In the light of the recent Supreme Court order against hate speech, discuss the challenges in fighting hate speech while preserving freedom of speech. What needs to be done?

The Supreme Court has directed the police and authorities to take suo moto action in case of hate speeches without waiting for a complaint to be filed.

What constitutes hate speech:

  • In India, there is no legal definition of hate speech.
  • According to the Law commission, hate speech generally is an incitement of hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religious belief.

Existing provisions against hate speech:

  • Section 153A and 505 of the Indian penal code deal with inflammatory speeches and expressions that seek to punish hate speech.
  • Article 19(2) of the constitution puts reasonable restriction on the freedom of speech including public order, decency or morality, defamation or incitement to an offence.


  • Hate speech is considered a limitation on free speech that seeks to prevent or bar speech that exposes a person or a group or section of society to hate, violence, ridicule or indignity.
  • There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech, hence it is very difficult to differentiate the two, especially in a diverse country like India.
  • Regulation in the matters of speech increases the arbitrary powers of state.
  • Use of concerned legal provisions as a tool for political vendetta.
  • The hate speech issue is primarily political.
  • Legal complications due to social and political nature of hate speech.
  • Use of social media to propagate hate speech.

Way forward:

Specialised law is needed to control the spread of hate speech through social media.

Hate speech is a complex issue with its roots deeply engrained in the societal values. The diversity of India further complicates the issue. We need to work together as a nation to make India a peaceful place to live.


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