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Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Live Law

 Context: The Supreme Court, in a recent judgement, clarified that to constitute an offence under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, the essential requirement is to incite enmity and disharmony among different groups or communities.

 

What is Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code? 

Section 153A of the IPC penalizes actions that promote hostility between groups based on religion, caste, race, etc. Offenders spreading hate or disharmony through words, images, or actions face imprisonment for up to three years, fines, or both. If the offence occurs in a place of worship, the punishment can increase to five years in prison.

 

The application of the law:

  1. Hate speech laws have been invoked under different regimes to crack down on criticism of public functionaries and to arrest individuals.
    1. For example, a Marathi actor was arrested (booked under Section 153A of the IPC) last year, for a Facebook post allegedly defaming an NCP leader.
  2. According to the NCRB data, the rate of conviction for Section 153A is very low. In 2020, 1,804 cases were registered (six times higher than in 2014), however, the conviction rate was 2%.
  3. Also, the registration of multiple FIRs across different states drains the resources of the accused to secure legal representation.

 

Safeguards against misuse:

  1. Section 153A requires prior sanction(before the trial begins, not at the stage of preliminary investigation) from the government for initiating prosecution.
  2. In the Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar case (2014),the SC laid down a set of guidelines. For instance, the police cannot automatically arrest a suspect before investigation for crimes that carry a punishment of less than seven years.
  3. In 2021, the SC ruled that the state will have to prove intent(to cause disorder or incite people to violence) to secure a conviction under Section 153A.