May 02, 2016

India: Hate Speech, Hurt Sentiment, and the (Im)Possibility of Free Speech (Siddharth Narrain)

The Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 51, Issue No. 17, 23 Apr, 2016

Hate Speech, Hurt Sentiment, and the (Im)Possibility of Free Speech

by Siddharth Narrain

Siddharth Narrain (siddharth.narrain[at]gmail.com) is a lawyer and research associate at Sarai—Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

This paper examines the evolution of hate speech law through chronological developments. Beginning during the Constitutional Assembly debates, it examines how hate speech law has been interpreted by courts and legislative developments in the six decades post independence. Through this exercise, the author argues that the courts have interpreted the law through a pragmatic lens, often eschewing doctrine for practical reasons. If the judiciary's approach to hate speech law has been through the lens of pragmatism, what does this mean for legal reform, and for framing civil society responses to the existing legal framework around hate speech? Is it possible to ensure a more speech expansive framework while working within the limits of existing constitutional jurisprudence? Do we have to move beyond existing jurisprudence to encourage and protect fearless speech? - See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/17/special-articles/hate-speech-hurt-sentiment-and-impossibility-free-speech.html