Blasphemy and Hate Speech


While Mohammad Zubair of Alt News was arrested for tweeting a still picture from a movie that had some religious context attached to it, Nupur Sharma, a member of the BJP, has been absconding with no coercive action taken against her for her inflammatory remarks on a prime-time TV show. 


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is “Hate Speech”?
  2. Laws related to hate speech in India
  3. What is the history of Section 295 (A)?
  4. How has the legislation been interpreted?
  5. Should there be a difference between blasphemy laws and hate speech laws?
  6. How should one deal with incidents of blasphemy?

What is “Hate Speech”?

  • In general, “Hate Speech” refers to words whose intent is to create hatred towards a particular group, that group may be a community, religion or race. This speech may or may not have meaning, but is likely to result in violence.
  • BPRD Definition: The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases that defined hate speech as a “language that denigrates, insults, threatens or targets an individual based on their identity and other traits (such as sexual orientation or disability or religion etc.).”
  • According to the Law Commission of India, “Hate speech generally 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. This, hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.”

Laws related to hate speech in India

Article 19 of the Constitution– Freedom of Speech and Expression is guaranteed to all the citizens of India. However, the right is subjected to reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

Indian Penal Code on Hate Speech

  • Section 295A defines and prescribes a punishment for 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 citizens of India 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 [three years], or with fine, or with both,” the IPC section reads.
  • According to Section 153A of IPC, “promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”, is a punishable offence and attracts three years of imprisonment.
  • According to Section 505 of IPC, “Statements that promote mutiny by the armed forces, or causes such fear or alarm that people are induced to commit an offence against the state or public tranquillity; or is intended to incite or incites any class or community to commit an offence against another class or community”, will attract a jail term of up to three years under Section 505(1).
  • Under Section 505(2), “it is an offence to make statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
  • Under Section 505(3), the offence will attract up to a five-year jail term if it takes place in a place of worship, or in any assembly engaged in religious worship or religious ceremonies.

What is the history of Section 295 (A)?

  • As far as laws in India go, there isn’t formal legislation against blasphemy.
  • The closest equivalent to a blasphemy law is Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which punishes any speech, writings, or signs that “with premeditated and malicious intent” insult citizens’ religion or religious beliefs with a fine and imprisonment for up to three years.

The history of Section 295(A) of the IPC can be traced back to 95 years:

  • In 1927, a satire was published which had obscene parallels to the Prophet’s personal life.
  • It was indeed very offensive to the Muslim community but the erstwhile High Court of Lahore observed that the author of this cannot be prosecuted as the writing did not cause animosity or hostility between any communities.
  • Thus, the offense did not fall under Section 153(A), which dealt with maintaining public tranquility/order.
  • However, this incident gave rise to a demand that there be a law to protect the sanctity of religions, and thus, Section 295(A) was introduced.

Ramji Lal Modi case (1957):

  • The legality of Section 295(A), which had been challenged in the Ramji Lal Modi case (1957), was affirmed by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court.
    • The apex court reasoned that while Article 19(2) allows reasonable limits on freedom of speech and expression for the sake of public order, the punishment under Section 295(A) deals with aggravated form of blasphemy which is committed with the malicious aim of offending the religious sensibilities of any class.

How has the legislation been interpreted?

  • The apex court redefined the test it laid down in the Ramji Lal Modi case.
  • It decided that the connection between speech and disorder must be like a “spark in a powder keg”.

Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh vs Ram Manohar Lohia case:

  • The Supreme Court stated that the link between the speech spoken and any public disorder caused as a result of it should have a close relationship for retrieving Section 295(A) of IPC.
  • By 2011, it concluded that only speech that amounts to “incitement to impending unlawful action” can be punished.
    • That is, the state must meet a very high bar before using public disturbance as a justification for suppressing expression.

Should there be a difference between blasphemy laws and hate speech laws?

  • The wording of Section 295(A) is considerably too wide.
  • It cannot be stated that deliberate disrespect to religion or religious sensibilities is necessarily tantamount to incitement.
  • The Supreme Court has said on several occasions that perhaps the goal of hate speech statutes in Section 295(A) is to prevent prejudice and ensure equality.
  • Unfortunately, there is a huge disparity between this interpretation and the actual wording due to which the law is still being exploited at all levels of administration.
  • Insulting religion or religious figures may be disputed or condemned but it should not be legally outlawed or prosecuted.
  • The reason for this is because hate speech laws are predicated on the critical distinction between criticising or ridiculing religion and encouraging prejudice or aggression towards individuals or a community because of their faith.

How should one deal with incidents of blasphemy?

  • Blasphemy laws which prohibit religious criticism in general are incompatible with the principles of a democratic society.
  • In a free and democratic society, there should be no screening of discourse and dissent.
  • The only feasible solution that stands on the thin line of protection of faith and questioning hate speech should be keeping blasphemy in the statutes but de-criminalising it.

E-Waste Management


A proposed framework by the Centre for regulating e-waste in India has upset a key link of India’s electronic waste collection system and threatens the livelihood of thousands of people.


GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Draft Notification for Electronic Waste Management
  2. What is the controversy now?
  3. What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?
  4. What is e-waste?
  5. e-Waste recycling in India
  6. Legislation related to e-waste recycling in India

About Draft Notification for Electronic Waste Management

Coverage for Electronics: 

  • A wide range of electronic goods, including laptops, landline and mobile phones, cameras, recorders, music systems, microwaves, refrigerators and medical equipment have been specified in the notification.

Target for E-Waste Collection: 

  • Consumer goods companies and makers of electronics goods have to ensure at least 60% of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70% and 80% in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
  • Companies will have to register on an online portal and specify their annual production and e-waste collection targets.

EPR Certificates: 

  • The rules bring into effect a system of trading in certificates, akin to carbon credits, that will allow companies to temporarily bridge shortfalls.
  • The rules lay out a system of companies securing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates.
  • These certificates certify the quantity of e-waste collected and recycled in a particular year by a company and an organisation may sell surplus quantities to another company to help it meet its obligations.

Focus on Circular Economy: 

  • New Rules emphasizes on the EPR, recycling and trading.
  • This follows from the government’s objective to promote a Circular Economy.


  • Companies that don’t meet their annual targets will have to pay a fine or an ‘environmental compensation’ but the draft doesn’t specify the quantum of these fines.

Implementing Authority: 

  • The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) will oversee the overall implementation of these regulations.

State Governments’ Responsibilities: 

  • The State governments have been entrusted with the responsibility of earmarking industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertaking industrial skill development and establishing measures for protecting the health and safety of workers engaged in the dismantling and recycling facilities for e-waste.

What is the controversy now?

  • In May, the Ministry published a draft notification that eliminates PROs and dismantlers and transfers complete duty for recycling to authorized recyclers.
  • There are very few authorised recyclers in India.
  • Recyclers will source a quantity of waste, recycle them and generate electronic certificates.
  • Companies can buy these certificates equivalent to their annual committed target and thus do not have to be involved with engaging the PROs and dismantlers.
  • Dismantling a fledgling system was detrimental to the future of e-waste management in India.

What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the term used to describe a producer’s responsibility to manage a product’s plastic packaging in an environmentally sound manner until the end of its useful life.
  • The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 and the E-Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2011 were the rules that first implemented EPR in India.
  • However, because the majority of businesses did not have an internal recycling department, Producer Responsibility Organizations, a network of government-registered businesses, emerged (PRO).

How PROs work?

  • PROs act as an intermediary between manufacturers and formal recycling
  • They are (expected to be) technologically equipped to recycle end-of-life electronic goods safely and efficiently.
  • The PROs typically bid for contracts from companies and arrange for specified quantities of goods to be recycled.
  • They provide companies certified proof of recycling that they then maintain as part of their records. Several PROs work on consumer awareness and enable a supply chain for recycled goods.

What is e-waste?

  • E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.
  • There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar “appliances” should be grouped into the category has not been established.

Is e-waste dangerous?

  • Electronic scrap components, such as CPUs, contain potentially harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants.
  • Recycling and disposal of e-waste may involve significant risk to health of workers and their communities.

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 talks of the necessity to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Referring to discarded electronic devices, this means achieving ecologically acceptable management throughout their life cycle, as well as reducing the release of poisons into the atmosphere, water and soil to minimise their negative impact on health and the environment.

e-Waste recycling in India

  • While e-waste recycling is a source of income for many people in India, it also poses numerous health and environmental risks.
  • More than 95% of India’s e-waste is illegally recycled by informal waste pickers called kabadiwalas or raddiwalas.
  • These workers operate independently, outside of any formal organization which makes enforcing e-waste regulations difficult-to-impossible.
  • Recyclers often rely on rudimentary recycling techniques that can release toxic pollutants into the surrounding area.
  • The release of toxic pollutants associated with crude e-waste recycling can have far reaching, irreversible consequences.
  • A report by the Union Environment Ministry in 2018 found that many of India’s e-waste recyclers weren’t recycling waste at all. While some were storing it in hazardous conditions, many didn’t even have the capacity to handle such waste.

Legislation related to e-waste recycling in India

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is primarily responsible for regulations regarding electronic waste. Additionally, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) produce implementation procedures to ensure proper management of rules set forth by the MoEFCC.

E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011

  • Prior to the enactment of the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011; e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
  • It made manufacturers, dealers, refurbishers and Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO) liable for safe disposal of electronic goods.

E-Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 have recently been amended by the Centre, to facilitate and effectively implement the environmentally sound management of e-waste in India.
  • These amendments have been made with the objective of channelizing the e-waste generated in the country towards authorized dismantlers and recyclers in order to further formalize the e-waste recycling sector.
  • By way of revised targets and monitoring under the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), effective and improved management of e-waste would be ensured.

Chabahar Port


Recently, during the foreign ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting, India pushes for a greater role for Chabahar Port in increasing the connectivity in the region.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Chabahar Port and its benefits for India
  2. What is INSTC?

The Chabahar Port and its benefits for India

  • The Chabahar Port is Located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country.
  • With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
  • It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Seawhich China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
  • With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
  • From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

What is INSTC?

  • India, Iran, and Russia initially agreed to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project in 2000 in St. Petersburg; ten additional central Asian and west Asian nations have since joined as observers: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, Syria, and Bulgaria.
  • Although they are not signatories to the INSTC agreement, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan are interested in using the transport corridor.
  • It aims to cut the cost of freight transportation between India and Russia by around 30% and to cut the transit time from 40 days by more than half. It proposes a 7,200 km multi-mode network comprising ship, rail, and road lines.
  • The route largely comprises transporting cargo from Russia, India, Iran, and Azerbaijan.
  • It would be provided as a viable and fairer alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Further, it will enhance regional connectivity.


The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Astrakhan, etc.



Recently, Six members of ‘Razakar Bahini’, a locally recruited paramilitary force that collaborated with the Pakistan army during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, were sentenced to death for ‘crimes against humanity’ by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who were the Razakars?
  2. Fate after the Liberation War

Who were the Razakars?

  • The Razakars were an auxiliary force of the Pakistan army during the 1971 Bangladesh War.
  • Composed of mostly pro-Pakistani Bengalis and Biharis from Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), the approximate 50,000 Razakars assisted the army in raids against the local population and were accused of committing horrific atrocities.
  • Razakar literally means ‘volunteer’ or ‘helper’ in Persian and Urdu, but has come to mean ‘collaborator’ and is associated with betrayal in Bangladesh.
  • Razakars mostly consisted of Urdu-speaking Bihari Muslims and religious parties that opposed the separation of East and West Pakistan, like Jamaat-e-Islami, Al Badr and Al Shams.
  • The nationalist struggle in Bangladesh was brutally suppressed by the Pakistani army and the allied Razakars, with a death toll being pegged at anywhere from 300,000 to 3 million civilians, rape of 100,000 to 400,000 women and 25,000 to 195,000 forced pregnancies.

Fate after the Liberation War

  • After Bangladesh achieved independence in December 1971, the newly formed government very quickly banned organisations that collaborated with Pakistani state forces, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, and many of its influential leaders escaped to Pakistan.
  • The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order was passed in 1972 and in the following year, the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government introduced the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act in 1973, to investigate and prosecute those that committed atrocities during the war.


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