500% increase in cases filed under hate speech law in seven years: NCRB

Cases filed under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language) have increased by six or nearly 500% between 2014 and 2020, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

While 2014 (323 cases) saw the fewest cases in seven years, 2020, with 1,804 cases, saw the highest number.

In 2020, Tamil Nadu (303) recorded the highest number of cases falling under this section, followed by Uttar Pradesh (243), Telangana (151), Assam (147) and Andhra Pradesh (142).

Similarly, cases filed under section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) increased sixfold, from 13 in 2014 to 82 in 2020.

Hate speech has not been defined in any law in India and continues to be the subject of live debate in the country. In fact, the Law Commission of India, in its March 2017 report, wrote that “new ICC provisions must be incorporated” to address the problem of hate speech.

Although no specific law defines hate speech, some legal provisions or sections of the IPC prohibit certain forms of speech with the exception of freedom of expression.

The conviction rate for Section 153 cases was as low as 20% in the five years between 2016 and 2020. In 2016, 15.3% of cases resulted in convictions, while in 2020, the conviction rate had risen to 20.4%.

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