In 2019, the Amit Shah-led Ministry of Home Affairs had decided to overhaul the British-era and largely outdated Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in order to bring it in tandem with the current times and prevent the abuse of ‘Freedom of Speech’. The committee put in charge of the reformative exercise was directed to seek suggestions from States, the Supreme Court, High Courts, the Bar Council of India, Bar Councils of States, universities and law institutes.
One major concern which the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws is exclusively trying to address is the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes “hate speech” in the IPC. According to a report by the Hindu, the committee is soon slated to propose a separate Section on “offences relating to speech and expression.”
“The committee is examining a gamut of subjects pertaining to reforms in the IPC. Instead of ad hoc changes, it was decided that all the pending issues such as those on hate speech as recommended by the Viswanathan committee can be examined and comprehensive changes are brought in,” a Home Ministry official was quoted as saying.
Once the committee submits its recommendations relating to offences of speech and expression, the IPC would be able to clearly define what constitutes free speech and what does not. Currently, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding what can be considered hate speech or sedition. Once the MHA accepts the recommendations of the committee in charge of overhauling the IPC, all loopholes relating to the scope of freedom and speech and expression will be filled.
The good times for anti-India activists are soon about to draw to a close. With a definitive scope of freedom of speech and expression – the Modi government is making it clear that the right to express oneself is not absolute. As long as an individual remains within the scope of the law when it comes to freedom of speech, he/she need not worry about being dealt with strictly for merely voicing their opinions.
However, those who attack India with their speech and actions can be rest assured that an unsparing and stringent system is about to be put in place to deal with them by the Modi government. The IPC section on offences relating to speech and expression will also end the haphazard targeting of individuals for merely voicing their opinions. Effectively, the MHA is soon about to put in place a threshold on speech and expression. Anyone attacking India with their speech will cross that threshold.
Earlier, the Viswanathan committee had proposed inserting Sections 153 C (b) and Section 505 A in the IPC for incitement to commit an offence on grounds of religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribe.