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Hate Speech On TV News Channels: News 18 India And Zee News Case

"Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy but it is democracy," a famous quote by Walther Cronkite implies that Journalism is an effective medium through which genuine or trustworthy information can be supplied to the masses. But lately, this medium has been corrupted by the virus of TRP (Television Rating Points), LRP (Loyalty Rating Points), and political penetration, which ultimately has led to a decrease in its trustworthiness which was evident recently when the News Broadcasting and Digital Standard Authority (NBDSA)  found News18 India and Zee News guilty for Communally charged programs.

About The Case
In the first instance, NBDSA found Zee news liable for depicting the over-population issue by targeting the Muslim community and sharing statistics selectively; in another complaint, NBDSA also passed orders against five programs aired by News18 India for giving a communal narrative by targeting the Muslim community.

While hearing the matter, the supreme court showed anxiety about the absence of any reliable institutional mechanism to regulate hate speech spread by TV news anchors. And this is not the first time SC has raised concerns about hate speech on television. Earlier, a bench led by the then Chief Justice S.A. Bobde also observed that arresting hate on TV was essential for law and order, as arming police officers with Lathis and putting up barricades to prevent violence and riots.

What Is Hate Speech?

In everyday language, "hate speech" refers to offensive discourse targeting groups or individuals based on inherent characteristics (such as race, religion, or gender) that may threaten social peace.

In the 267th report of the Law Commission of India, hate speech is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, and the like.

Laws Relating To Hate Speech

With the above definition and case in mind, let's examine some laws regarding hate speech in India and how they function. There are several laws regarding hate speech, but the important one includes Section 153(A) of the IPC and Section 295 A of the IPC.

Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code attempts to punish those who engage in any enmity among different groups on the basis of religion, caste, race, place of birth or residence, or even language.

If simplified more, it puts liability on those who Spread enmity in the form of words (spoken or written), visual representation, and signs with the intention of causing disharmony, hatred, or disturbance among people belonging to different groups, religions, castes, or communities.

Spread disharmony and disturb the public tranquility of people from different racial and religious groups.

Aid in the organizing of specific movements, drills encourage as well as train the participants of such movements to use criminal force and violence upon people belonging to other racial and religious groups and communities.

Amish Devgan v. Union of India [1]
In this 2020 judgment, the Supreme Court clarified the scope and the essential ingredients to constitute an offense under Section 153A IPC. The court also interpreted the scope of the term 'public tranquility' under section 153A IPC and held that the term must be read in concurrence to the term 'public order.'

Section 295A, on the other hand, states that if a person with malicious intent or deliberately intends to hurt the religious feelings of any person or is found insulting or attempting to insult the religious beliefs of a person shall be punished with imprisonment up to a term of three years and fine or both.

This anti-hate speech law clashes directly with freedom of speech and expression expressed in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, this is evident from the case of Ramji Lal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh[2] , in which Mr. Ramji was convicted by a court under the Section 295A for publishing an article, the content of which directly affected the religious feelings of a community. His conviction was upheld by Allahabad High court on appeal, and therefore, a Special Leave Petition was filed to the Supreme court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 295A.

The court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 295A and held that this section does not penalize every act of insult or attempt to insult the religious belief of a class of citizens; it penalizes only those acts of insult, which are committed with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious belief and feelings of that class.

However, even after formulating and adopting stringent laws as proposed by the Law Commission of India in 2017, hate speech cases have been on the rise; it has equally led to the over-criminalization of hate speech, which directly clashes with the Freedom of Speech and Expression, i.e., Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

Hate speech in India via media broadcasting is a serious concern that has been rising continuously in India's past decade. In recent times TV news channels have been using this to boost their TRP (Television Rating Points) and LRP (Loyalty Rating Points).

Political penetration and commercialization are also causes of increased hate speech via TV news channels. This ultimately leads to tension between different groups of people, causing imbalance and anarchy in society and affecting the country on social, economic, and political fronts.

The Law Commission, in its 267th Report, has made recommendations to create new sections in IPC regarding the criminalization of hate speech instead of relying on present laws. There is a solid need to formulate laws dealing with hate speech on news channels. The NBDSA has to play a crucial role in implementing specific laws; only then can the problem of hate speech on news channels be curbed.

To stop the practice of hate speech, there is also a need to raise awareness among the general public, educate them about what constitutes hate speech, and encourage them to speak out against it. It is also crucial to bring the conversation about hate speech to the forefront of public discourse.

Thus, a positive contribution to the common good can only be made when TV news anchors, journalists, the media, and national regulatory authorities are all held accountable to all citizens. This is done by encouraging fraternity among all of them and upholding each person's dignity as well as the unity and integrity of the country.


  1. Amish Devgan v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 560
  2. Ramji Lal Modi v. State of U.P., 1957 SCR 860

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