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Report No. 267

Distinguishing Sedition from Hate Speech

6.19 Care must also be taken to differentiate hate speech from sedition. The difference between offences under Chapter VIII (that cover aspects of hate speech) and sedition is that the offence of hate speech affects the State indirectly by disturbing public tranquility, while sedition is an offence directly against the State.

6.20 In 1897 when amendments to section 124A IPC were being proposed, a Select Committee reviewing the Bill recommended that sedition must be distinguished from stirring up class hatred. It reasoned that: It appears, to us that the offence of stirring up class-hatred differs in many important respects from the offence of sedition against the State.

It comes more appropriately in the chapter relating to offences against the public tranquility. The offence only affects the Government or the State indirectly, and the essence of the offence is that it predisposes classes of the people to action which may disturb the public tranquility. The fact that this offence is punishable in England as seditious libel is probably due to historical causes, and has nothing to do with logical arrangement.136

6.21 To qualify as sedition, the impugned expression must threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India and security of the State. Since it has been made a distinct offence under section 124A, it would not be advisable to place expressions exciting disaffection against the State under the proposed section on hate speech. Also, imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration are punishable under section 153B IPC.

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