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BJP tops the list of "hate speech" MPs, MLAs by their own admission, even as Indian law fails to define term

By Our Representative
An analysis of the self-sworn affidavits filed by sitting MPs and MLAs has revealed that the BJP has the largest number of MPs/MLAs -- 27 out of 58 -- with declared cases against themselves related to hate speech, as against Congress' just 2. Done by India's advocacy group Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), in association with National Election Watch (NEW), the analysis suggests that there is an urgent need to have a deeper look into this aspect in order to strengthen democratic institutions.
Interestingly, the political party which is the remote second in the number of MPs and MLAs who have declared in their affidavits that cases relating to hate speech were filed against them is All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen, with 6 elected representatives. An equal number of MPs/MLAs of the Telengana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), 6, were found to have admitted hacing delivered hate speeches, followed by Telugu Dream Party 3 and Shiv Sena 3. This is followed by the Trinamool Congress 2, and Janata Dal (United) 2, and so on.
Even as giving these details, the ADR analysis quotes a Law Commission Report, No 267 of March 2017 on hate speech, saying that “hate speech” has not been defined in any law in India. "However, legal provisions in certain legislations prohibit select forms of speech as an exception to freedom of speech", the analysis notes.
It adds, "The term hate speech has been used invariably to mean expression which is abusive, insulting, intimidating, harassing or which incites violence, hatred or discrimination against groups identified by characteristics such as one’s race, religion, place of birth, residence, region, language, caste or community, sexual orientation or personal convictions."
According to ADR, "By giving tickets to candidates who have been charged with cases related to Hate speech especially promoting enmity between religious groups and for committing acts that are intended to outrage religious feelings, political parties have been in a way abetting circumstances that lead to events such as communal riots and violence between different groups of people."
According to the analysis, the Law Commission Report says hate speech comes under IPC Section 153A IPC, which penalises ‘promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony; and Section 153B IPC, which penalises ‘imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration’.
Then there is Section 295A IPC, which penalises ‘deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’; Section 298 IPC which penalises ‘uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person’; and Section 505(1) and (2) IPC, which penalises publication or circulation of any statement, rumour or report causing public mischief and enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
Further, there are provisions under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, says the ADR analysis. These ae Section 8, which disqualifies a person from contesting election if he/she is convicted for indulging in acts amounting to illegitimate use of freedom of speech and expression; Section 123(3A) and Section 125, which prohibitspromotion of enmity on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language in connection with election as a corrupt electoral practice and prohibits it.
ADR believes, "Hate speech poses complex challenges to freedom of speech and expression. Hence, new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address this issue. Amendments to the IPC, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by adding new provisions on ‘Prohibiting incitement to hatred’ provocation of violence in certain cases’ following section 505 IPC, and accordingly amending the First Schedule of CrPC."
It adds, "Internet is an important tool for disseminating information and opinions; however, it also serves as a platform for disseminating unlawful speech. Political parties have been misusing the medium for unlawful statements. Hence, it is recommended that such unlawful statements on online platforms should be monitored and if the person found guilty, they should be penalised."
Asking political parties not to give tickets to the candidates who have declared serious criminal cases against themselves, the analysis says, "A total of 58 current MPs and MLAs have declared cases related to hate speech.Of these, 15 sitting Lok Sabha MPs have declared cases related to hate speech against themselves.
Providing party wise MPs with declared cases related to hate speech, the analysis says, of the 15, as many as 10 are sitting Lok Sabha MP from the BJP, none from other national parties, including Congress. Rest of them belong to regional parties, with each party having one MP each.
As for the sitting MLAs with declared cases related to hate speech, of the 43 who have declared cases related to hate speech against themselves 17 are from the BJP, and just 2 from the Congress.
State-wise MLAs with declared cases related to hate speech suggest that 11 are sitting MLAs from Telangana. 4 from Bihar, 9 from Uttar Pradesh, 4 from Maharashtra, 3 each from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, 2 each from Uttarakhand and West Bengal and 1 MLA each from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

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