With the ongoing Lok Sabha elections picking pace, parties have taken to intensive campaign stratergies. And this high-tension drama, the Election Commission of India (EC) is keeping a hawks eye out for those wary political leaders, making bold, passionate and many a times offensive statements to attract voters, and issuing notices to errant politicians for "hate speech" or for launching scathing personal attacks on other politicians. Yet, many still remain unclear on what exactly is hate speech and what are the laws relating to it.
What is hate speech?
According to the Model Code of Conduct for the guidance of political parties and candidates, on the official website of the Election Commission of India, it says, “Criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work. Parties and candidates shall refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties."
It further adds, "Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.”
This bit, of course, pertains only to critical attack on an opponent.
However, in cases such as that of Amit Shah, who is accused of inciting hate and violence through his revenge remark, the Representation of People Act of 1951, specifies, "Any person shall be disqualified from a political party for certain offences like those enshrined under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which deals with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc."
The same can also apply to Azam Khan's Kargil war comment.
EC also says that a hat speech can be a valid reason for declination or cancellation of nomination.