To quote John Stuart Mill, “The actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to other individuals.”
Hate speech by an individual is something that has an adverse effect on society causing mayhem and chaos. Society comprises various individuals as well as the one who gave the speech. So how does Hate Speech affect the society? It does so by harming the individuals of the society and that individual too who delivered the hate speech. I believe all of us will agree to the fact that the makers of our Constitution were thinkers of the very highest kind.
Our Constitution is an advocate of subtle restrictions on free speech, and to quote it, “Restrictions can be made on free speech, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order and morality, against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to offence! If such great thinkers supported certain restrictions on free speech, what reason do we have to debate upon them?
I agree with my opponents till the extent that our laws are a bit subjective in their nature.
However, this is no excuse for not having them! We cannot not have curbs on free speech as it will only be a recipe for perfect anarchy. Amendments in the Constitution can happen, but removal of such a pivotal restriction is too extreme and inhibitory step to take. The carrying out of laws in India is a little weak, however there have been numerable instances in the past where the authorities have shown the law’s teeth and prosecuted the guilty in acts of hate speech. Take the recent example of AkbaruddinOwaisi who tried to spurn sentiments of hate in the people of Andhra! He has been booked by the law. The 3rd Reich under Adolf Hitler is held responsible for the initiation of the 2nd World War. But what spurned the people of Germany into action? They were the words of Adolf Hitler, whose appalling hate speech led to the most heinous of crimes in human history, the genocide and holocaust.
The example of the mass exodus of North-East origin Indians living in other parts of the nation, to their hometowns is an alarming and eye opening one. The outrageous fire-like dissemination of the false alarm via the internet begs us to have curbs on free speech! Take the example of the 10th article of the European Convention on Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to Freedom of Expression, however, the exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society”. The misuse of the freedom of expression may encroach upon the most fundamental right of all, the Right to Life! Something so small like the shouting out of the word ‘fire’ can cause frenzy in a cinema hall. We are talking about a democratic nation over here my friends, something much too big and much too fragile.