"Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy but it is
democracy," a famous quote by Walther Cronkite implies that Journalism is an
effective medium through which genuine or trustworthy information can be
supplied to the masses. But lately, this medium has been corrupted by the virus
of TRP (Television Rating Points), LRP (Loyalty Rating Points), and political
penetration, which ultimately has led to a decrease in its trustworthiness which
was evident recently when the News Broadcasting and Digital Standard Authority (NBDSA)
found News18 India and Zee News guilty for Communally charged programs.
About The Case
In the first instance, NBDSA found Zee news liable for depicting the
over-population issue by targeting the Muslim community and sharing statistics
selectively; in another complaint, NBDSA also passed orders against five
programs aired by News18 India for giving a communal narrative by targeting the
While hearing the matter, the supreme court showed anxiety about the absence of
any reliable institutional mechanism to regulate hate speech spread by TV news
anchors. And this is not the first time SC has raised concerns about hate speech
on television. Earlier, a bench led by the then Chief Justice S.A. Bobde also
observed that arresting hate on TV was essential for law and order, as arming
police officers with Lathis and putting up barricades to prevent violence and
What Is Hate Speech?
In everyday language, "hate speech" refers to offensive discourse targeting
groups or individuals based on inherent characteristics (such as race, religion,
or gender) that may threaten social peace.
In the 267th report of the Law Commission of India, hate speech is an incitement
to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race,
ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, and the like.
Laws Relating To Hate Speech
With the above definition and case in mind, let's examine some laws regarding
hate speech in India and how they function. There are several laws regarding
hate speech, but the important one includes Section 153(A) of the IPC and
Section 295 A of the IPC.
Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code attempts to punish those who engage in
any enmity among different groups on the basis of religion, caste, race, place
of birth or residence, or even language.
If simplified more, it puts liability
on those who Spread enmity in the form of words (spoken or written), visual representation,
and signs with the intention of causing disharmony, hatred, or disturbance among
people belonging to different groups, religions, castes, or communities.
Spread disharmony and disturb the public tranquility of people from different
racial and religious groups.
Aid in the organizing of specific movements, drills encourage as well as train
the participants of such movements to use criminal force and violence upon
people belonging to other racial and religious groups and communities.
Amish Devgan v. Union of India 
In this 2020 judgment, the Supreme Court clarified the scope and the essential
ingredients to constitute an offense under Section 153A IPC. The court also
interpreted the scope of the term 'public tranquility' under section 153A IPC
and held that the term must be read in concurrence to the term 'public order.'
Section 295A, on the other hand, states that if a person with malicious intent
or deliberately intends to hurt the religious feelings of any person or is found
insulting or attempting to insult the religious beliefs of a person shall be
punished with imprisonment up to a term of three years and fine or both.
This anti-hate speech law clashes directly with freedom of speech and expression
expressed in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, this is evident from the
case of Ramji Lal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh
 , in which Mr. Ramji
was convicted by a court under the Section 295A for publishing an article, the
content of which directly affected the religious feelings of a community. His
conviction was upheld by Allahabad High court on appeal, and therefore, a
Special Leave Petition was filed to the Supreme court challenging the
constitutional validity of Section 295A.
The court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 295A and held that this
section does not penalize every act of insult or attempt to insult the religious
belief of a class of citizens; it penalizes only those acts of insult, which are
committed with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious
belief and feelings of that class.
However, even after formulating and adopting stringent laws as proposed by the
Law Commission of India in 2017, hate speech cases have been on the rise; it has
equally led to the over-criminalization of hate speech, which directly clashes
with the Freedom of Speech and Expression, i.e., Article 19 of the Indian
Hate speech in India via media broadcasting is a serious concern that has been
rising continuously in India's past decade. In recent times TV news channels
have been using this to boost their TRP (Television Rating Points) and LRP
(Loyalty Rating Points).
Political penetration and commercialization are also causes of increased hate
speech via TV news channels. This ultimately leads to tension between different
groups of people, causing imbalance and anarchy in society and affecting the
country on social, economic, and political fronts.
The Law Commission, in its 267th Report, has made recommendations to create new
sections in IPC regarding the criminalization of hate speech instead of relying
on present laws. There is a solid need to formulate laws dealing with hate
speech on news channels. The NBDSA has to play a crucial role in implementing
specific laws; only then can the problem of hate speech on news channels be
To stop the practice of hate speech, there is also a need to raise awareness
among the general public, educate them about what constitutes hate speech, and
encourage them to speak out against it. It is also crucial to bring the
conversation about hate speech to the forefront of public discourse.
Thus, a positive contribution to the common good can only be made when TV news
anchors, journalists, the media, and national regulatory authorities are all
held accountable to all citizens. This is done by encouraging fraternity among
all of them and upholding each person's dignity as well as the unity and
integrity of the country.
- Amish Devgan v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 560
- Ramji Lal Modi v. State of U.P., 1957 SCR 860
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