The Constitution of India, under Article 19(1)(a) provides the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. However, under Article 19(2), the Constitution also provides for reasonable restrictions against free speech in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense.
Hate speech constitutes a criminal charge under Section 153A, which is the offense of promoting enmity between two groups on grounds of religion, place of birth, race, residence, etc.
Such an offense is also charged under Section 295 A which includes any deliberate or malicious acts, intended to outrage religious beliefs of any class by insulting its religion. Somewhere amidst the politicization of religion, the lines between Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech have been blurred.
The extensive discussion on social media regarding the object discovered in the ‘Gyanvapi’ mosque in the video graphics survey overruled any chance of investigation on what it could actually be. Some claimed it to be the ‘Shivling’ while the others claimed it to be a fountain, supplementing with ill logic and ridicules.
The matter got escalated when Ratan Lal, an Associate Professor of History in the Hindu college, made an objectionable social media post which led to an FIR being lodged against him and his subsequential arrest under SEC 153A and Sec 295A.
This led to a massive discussion on his arrest being violative of the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression. SC interpreted that as per Sec 295 A, the words should be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded, and courageous people rather than the ones who take a personal offense in everything. Ratan Lal is under trial and the court will decide if he stands guilty or not.
The thread continued when ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and BJP Delhi Media Head Naveen Jindal passed some controversial remarks on Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
Her assertion on her stand at 3 distinct places confirms that these comments were deliberately made because she couldn’t tolerate her religious sentiments being hurt and it was her counter-response to hurt the religious sentiments of others as well.
If this was violative of 295A should be left to the court to decide. However, both these leaders were neither arrested nor an FIR was lodged against them as happened in the case of Ratan Lal.
What makes the police or the state machinery biased and unjust?
What is it that governs their ability or inability to decide?
Maybe they were not foresighted enough to guess that 16 countries would issue statements against India demanding an apology from the Indian Government, which would result in boycotting of Indian products from the countries which cater to 60% of India’s Crude oil imports and are the country’s greatest assets in terms of employment, foreign reserves and exports.
Finally, an FIR was filed against Nupur Sharma and 31 others including Asaduddin Owaisi and Yati Narsinghanand for spreading hate and allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of others.
The people holding an opinion on these issues can be divided into 3 categories.
They can either be Honest Conservatives who will not tolerate any religious criticism against any religion or Honest liberals who support the freedom of speech and expression and believe that 295 A should be repealed, making blasphemy, not a criminal offense.
One can place oneself in either of the two categories because the third belongs to the hypocrites who cannot tolerate any criticism for their religion but are the loudest in criticizing the religion of others.
They digress between Freedom of Speech and Expression and Article 295A as per their convenience. The incident of Nupur Sharma was followed by the baseless justice of Imtiaz Jaleel, who called for her hanging.
This certainly should be termed as hate speech as he is threatening to kill a person by inciting violence and there must be an action against such people, against people who become violent while protesting, against the machinery that disrupts law and order, against those fringe elements who actually turn the situation violent.
The evolving bulldozer system of justice also calls for an explanation. The media owes a justification for setting a fire to these issues by petting Hindus against Maulanas to insult each other which gives these new channels fodder for controversies.
Whether the incidents of demolishing a house, arrests, or FIRs are reserved for common people while the esteemed media personnel and politicians make a mockery out of us, create communal tensions so that people continue to mull over the insignificant issues rather than holding them responsible for their loopholes?