ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hate Speech, Hurt Sentiment, and the (Im)Possibility of Free Speech

This paper examines the evolution of hate speech law through chronological developments. Beginning during the Constitutional Assembly debates, it examines how hate speech law has been interpreted by courts and legislative developments in the six decades post independence. Through this exercise, the author argues that the courts have interpreted the law through a pragmatic lens, often eschewing doctrine for practical reasons. If the judiciary's approach to hate speech law has been through the lens of pragmatism, what does this mean for legal reform, and for framing civil society responses to the existing legal framework around hate speech? Is it possible to ensure a more speech expansive framework while working within the limits of existing constitutional jurisprudence? Do we have to move beyond existing jurisprudence to encourage and protect fearless speech?

The author would like to thank Sukumar Muralidharan and Vibodh Parthasarathi for their comments and feedback and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) Shimla for initiating a dialogue around the power of communication that helped shape this paper.

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