Candidates with hate speech cases against them were three times more successful in elections compared to those without a criminal record, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of self-disclosed crime records of candidates who have contested various elections nationwide over the last 12 years.
To put these data in perspective, over the last 12 years, 10 percent of candidates with no criminal cases won elections, while the figure was 20 percent for candidates with criminal cases of any kind.
As many as 70 members of parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) have hate speech cases pending against them, according to their own disclosures to the Election Commission (EC) of India.
A season of hate speeches by politicians — including union ministers, MPs and MLAs — is underway across India, driven by inflamed, opposing views on nationalism and free speech.
“Hate speech” currently has no specific legal definition, although the Law Commission has been tasked by the Supreme Court to do just that. There are several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that pertain to hate speech, including:
– 153(A)-statements aimed at creating enmity related to communal, racial, linguistic, ethnic and descent
– 153(B): Statements against sovereignty
– 295(A): Statements aimed at hurting religious feelings
– 505(2): Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes; and
Then there is Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act on promoting enmity between classes in connection with elections.
Among political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given tickets to most number of candidates with “hate speech” cases. As many as 399 candidates with “hate speech” cases have been fielded by political parties in various parliamentary and state assembly elections over the last 12 years. The BJP leads the list with 97 candidates.
Each political party, at the time of registration, has to provide a self-sworn oath to the EC, declaring that the party will adhere to the principles of “socialism, secularism and democracy”.
A party must provide a copy of memorandum of rules, which should contain a specific provision — drawn from Representation of the People Act, 1951 — that says “ and such memorandum or rules and regulations shall contain a specific provision that the association or body shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy, and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.”
By giving tickets to candidates with “hate speech” cases, political parties in a way violate their self-sworn oath to the EC. An explanation of hate speech laws:
– Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code: Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
– Section 153(B) of the Indian Penal Code: Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration.-(1) Whoever, by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise.
– Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. [Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 6*[citizens of India], 7*[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise] insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 8*[three years], or with fine, or with both.]
– Section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code: 2*[(2) Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes. [Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement or report containing rumour or alarming news with intent to create or promote, or which is likely to create or promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.]
– Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951: Promoting enmity between classes in connection with election. [Any person who in connection with an election under this Act promotes or attempts to promote on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, feelings of enmity or hatred, between different classes of the citizens of India shall be punishable, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.]
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Manoj K. is the founder of the Centre for Governance and Development. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)