By- Ananya Bose
“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it. The State would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your and my religion. That is everybody’s concern.”Mahatma Gandhi
From its languages to its customs to its ethnicities, India is a tremendously varied country. In India, religious diversity has existed for many years. India was designated a secular state, and the Preamble and Indian Constitution reflected this.
Our Constitution guarantees religious freedom under Articles 25 and 30. Because of the vastness of India and the diversity of religious customs, the Macaulay panel felt compelled to include religious offences in the Indian Penal Code of 1860. All of the provisions are laid forth in Chapter XV, and they are expounded on in sections 295-298.
This chapter is founded on the idea that every man has the inherent freedom to practise his or her religion, and that no one is legally justified in insulting another’s faith. Mutual respect for someone who practises a different faith is essential. Insulting or criticising someone for their religion is not acceptable and is a violation of the Penal Code.
As a result, when someone intentionally disrespects another’s faith, creating disturbances, insults, or irritation, all of these crimes are now criminal under the IPC’s XV Chapter.
Religion-Related Offenses are categorised
The Indian Penal Code’s Chapter XV (Of Offenses Relating to Religion) comprises five sections: Section 295, Section 295A, Section 296, Section 297, and Section 298. Religion-related offences can be roughly divided into three categories:
- Desecration of places of worship or revered things (Section 295 and 297).
- provoking or injuring people’s religious sensibilities (Section 295A and 298).
- Religious gatherings that are inconvenient (Section 296).
Injuring or disgracing a religious building to offend anyone’s faith
When a place of worship or an object that frightens a group of people is destroyed, damaged, or defiled, it is punishable by imprisonment, fines, or both. It should be noted that the punishment for damaging or defiling was harsher in the original draught of the Indian Penal Code than it is now. Its authors proposed a tougher sentence of solitary confinement for a period of up to seven years for any kind of individual.
The killing of a cow at a sacred spot in Benaras in 1809 sparked riots and resulted in the deaths of many people. This clause was adopted to instil seriousness among Indian citizens, encouraging them to respect the beliefs, traditions, and cultures of individuals of all faiths. To condemn a person under this clause, it is necessary to show that there was mens rea or purpose and that there was harm, filth, or destruction.
In the case of Sheo Shankar v. Emperor, the accused destructed a sacred thread worn by some other person because he was not entitled to accessorise it because he was off to the shudra caste. The court held that while it was not an insult because it was done by another Hindu and the shudra are not required to wear the sacred thread, this section would apply if the same act was done by a Mohammedan, Christian, or atheist.
Deliberate and malevolent activities aimed to offend the religious sensibilities of any group by denigrating their religion or religious beliefs.
Section 2 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 1927 added this section to the Penal Code. This was included because there was a need to punish deeds committed out of vice and with malice in mind. Blasphemous comments are penalised because they have the potential to jeopardise public order and peace, as well as foster division among residents.
The key components of this section are that the accused must make or attempt to make an insult to another’s religious beliefs and that the insult must be made intentionally and maliciously, with a visual manifestation of the offence.
In the case of Ramji Lal Mode v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the petitioner, printer, and publisher of a monthly magazine named Gaurashak (cow protector) was found guilty of printing prohibited content. Because of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, he had the right to freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court stated that section 295A was established to maintain public order and peace and that it only punishes the aggravated form of religious insult when it is done intentionally and maliciously.
Knowing or Intention
It is a necessary component for someone to be held responsible under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. The perpetrator must intend to desecrate, injure, or pollute a place of worship or an object (declared as a holy object by any religion).
A person cannot be held accountable under Section 295 if there is no malafide intent to offend religious sensibilities. Under these Sections, simple desecration of a house of worship is not considered objectionable. The facts and circumstances of the case are used to determine whether or not there was an intent to insult.
If ‘A’ is a Hindu and removes some old mosque building materials that are decaying and in disuse, he will not be held accountable under Sections 295 and 297 of the IPC because he had no purpose of insulting any religion. He had no idea that his acts would create religious harm.
It cannot be stated that when ‘A’ belongs to the Mohammedan faith and tosses a lighted cigarette on the Viman (a sacred item in the Hindu religion), it was an unintended act. Under the IPC, such behaviour is considered offensive. Section 297 of the Indian Penal Code makes it illegal to engage in sexual activity within a mosque or temple.
Disturbing religious gathering
This law makes disrupting a religious gathering punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine, or both. This was necessary for people of all faiths to be able to worship in peace and without interruption. The main ingredients of this section are that a voluntary disturbance must be caused to an assembly that was engaged in religious worship.
Disturbance under this section does not mean that a religious assembly’s worship should be stopped or interrupted; rather, it means that the assembly’s peace should not be disturbed, whether through loud noises or otherwise. It is vital to highlight that the law protects a properly convened religious congregation.
This part stems from Section 295 and covers holy sites. Trespassing at a house of worship, a burial cemetery, or an area set aside for funeral ceremonies is punishable. This law punishes any conduct of such a person that causes indignity to any human body by disrupting funeral services.
The accused must have purposefully sought to damage someone’s feelings or disrespect their faith, and he must have committed trespass or provided indignity to a human body or disrupted a burial service, among other things. The trespassed location should be a house of worship, a burial site, or a facility designated as a repository for the deceased’s remains.
Uttering, remarks, etc., with the purposeful goal of hurting a person’s religious sensibilities
This clause was utilised in the case of Chakra Behra v. Balkrushna Mohapatra, and it was decided that whoever said words or produced sounds in the hearing of another with the willful aim to harm, insult, or wound their religious sentiments would be punished with a year in prison, a fine, or both.
The code’s founders wanted to ensure that religious debates might flourish and that no one could disrespect the other or their beliefs by producing noises or sounds. The primary components of this section are that the accused must have spoken in front of that person and done so to hurt that person’s religious emotions.
The culprit was held responsible under this clause in the case of Mir Chittan v. Emperor because he killed a cow for a wedding feast in the sight of Hindus knowing it would violate their sentiments.
India is a secular republic with a ‘right to religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The Indian Penal Code’s Chapter XV (Sections 295 to 298) deals with religious offences and their penalty. No one is allowed to offend anyone’s religious beliefs or any religious holy item.
The Indian Penal Code outlines the consequences if this occurs. Religion-related offences are roughly grouped into three categories: Desecration of religious sites and sacred things, offending religious sensibilities, and disrupting religious assemblies and rites are all examples of desecration.
The protection of religious rights in Indian law is structured in this fashion.
- Offences Relating to Religion Under Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- John, S., 2020. Offences related to Religion – Law Times Journal.