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Topic: Offences relating religion

Submitted By: Vivek Singh, law student.

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Introduction The Penal Code in Chapter XV deals with offences relating religion. This chapter has been framed on the principle that every man has full freedom follow his or her own religion and that no man is in law justified to insult the religion another. Every one must respect the religious susceptibilities of persons of different religious persuasions or creeds and desist from hurting the religious sentiments of others. In other words, every man is free to profess his own religion and no man should insult the religion1 or religious feelings of any class or group.2 Thus the deliberate acts perpetrated by persons of one religious persuasion for the insult or annoyance of persons of another persuasion have been made punishable under this chapter.3 The five sections (295, 295A, 296, 297 and 298) contained elements to punish defilements (to make unclean or destroy the pureness) of place of worship,4 or objects of veneration (worship). outraging or wounding the religious feelings,5 and disturbing religious assemblies.6 In short, the offences prescribed tinder the chapter may be classified into 1. Damaging or defiling a place of worship or sacred object with intent to insult the religion of a class of persons (section 295); 2. Trespassing in any place of sepulture or where funeral ceremonies are performed (section 297); 3. Outraging or wounding the religious feelings of any class (sections 295A and 298); and 4. Disturbing a religious assembly (section 296, I.P.C.).

See Mukhezjee, BK. The Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trust, Tagore Law Lecture, 2nd Ed. (1962), pp. 24 for the meaning of religion. 2 See Draft Penal Code, note p. 136. Constitution of India in arts 25-28 confer certain rights relating to freedom of religion to all people. 3 Srivokti Swami, (1885) 1 Weir 153; Gopinath PujaPanda Samanta V. Ramchandni De AIR 1958 On 220, See Minister of Home affairs v. Jamaluddin Bin Othman, 1989 SCR 311 (Malaysis). 4 Indian Penal Code, see, 295 and 297. 5 Id., sec. 195A, 196 and 298. 6 Id., sec. 196

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www.bleedlaw.com Enactment of these sections in the Indian Penal Code to curb the factors that are responsible for inciting religious animosities is in accordance with the averred declarations of religious toleration of the government, which, as such, is necessary to prevent religious riots and crusades.7 Constitution and religious freedom.India is a secular state. It has no religion of - its own i.e., there is no state religion,8 unlike Islamic countries, such as Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc., which recognise Islam as the religion of - the state. The constitution of India in Article 25 has guaranteed freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion,9 and in Article 26 the freedom to establish religious institutions and manage and administer their affairs and to hold,acquire and administer property.10 The freedom of religion has been given a very wide connotation, so much so that even non citizen can enjoy religious freedom. However, this freedom is not an unlimited one; is subject to public order, morality and health. Clause (2) of Article 25 of the Constitution provides that Nothing in this article shall effect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law (a) regulating or-restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice; (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindu. A careful perusal of the above provisions would reveal that existing laws are saved from the purview of Article 25 of the Constitution. Thus Chapter. XV of the Penal Code which deals with the offences relating to religion is not affected by the operation of Article 25 of the Constitution and is not ultra pins. 295. Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any classWhoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class ot persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any Sass of persons

7 8 9

Queen Empress v. Imam Ali, (1888) ILR10 All 150 (FB).

See Bachal, V.M., Freedom of Religion and the Indian Judiciary, (1975). pp. 1-37. Article 25(1) states: Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. 10 Article 27 gives freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion and Article 28 freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.

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www.bleedlaw.com or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years; or with fine, or with both. (1) Injuring or defiling place of worship.Section 295, I.P.C. makes destruction, damage, or defilement of a. place of workship or an object held sacred, with intent to insult the religion of a class of persons, punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both, if such an act is done with the intention or knowledge of insulting the religion 0 any class of persons. It may be noted that the original Draft Penal Code had provided for more severe punishment for destroying or defiling a place of worship than the present section, due to the gravity of the offence. Note J. of the Draft Penal Code to section 75 reads: We have prescribed a punishment of great severity. The proposed punishments rigorous imprisonment for a term which might extend to seven years for the intentional destroying or defiling of places of worship, or of objects held sacred by any class of persons. No offence in the whole code is so likely to lead to tumult, to sanguinary outrage and even to armed insurrection. The slaughter of a cow in a sacred place at Benaras in 1809 caused violent tumult, attended with considerable loss of life. The pollution of a mosque at Bangalore was attended with consequences still more lamentable and alarming. We have therefore empowered the courts in cases of this description to pass a very severe sentence on the offender.11 This section has been enacted to compel people to respect the religious susceptibilities12 of persons of different religious persuasion or creeds. My person, whether a worshipper or not, who offends the religious feelings of any class of people comes within the purview. of this section. Due regards are paid to the feeling and religious emotions of different classes of persons with different beliefs irrespective of their consideration, whether or not they share those beliefs, or whether they are rational or otherwise. (2) lngredients.To convict a person under this section the following two ingredients must exist, Viz.: 1. The accused must do such an act with the intention of insulqng the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that any class of person is likely to consider
11
12

Note J. of the Law Commissioners quoted in Nelsons Penal Code, 6th ed. (1968), Vol. 2 at p. 1360. S Veerabhadram Chettiar v. E.V. Ramaswami Naicker, AIR 1958 SC 1032.

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www.bleedlaw.com - such destruction, damageor defilement as an insult to their religion. 2. The accused must destroy, damage or defile any place of worship or any object which is held as sacred by any class of persons. (3) Mens reaAn Essential RequirementSection 295, as stated above, punishes a person who intentionally insults a religion by destroying, damaging or defiling any place of worship or any object held sacred by any class of persons. The essence of the offence is mens Tea, in addition to which there must be an act of destruction, damage or defilement of place of worship. An act which is not intentional will not make a person liable unless it was done with the knowledge that it will injure religious feelings of a class of persons. Mere defilement of a place or worship is not an offence under this section without the requisite mens rea. For instance, in Narain Das13 the accused, who removed some old building materials belonging to a mosque, which were in a rotten condition and to which no one had particular claim was held not liable under this section. The court observed that there was no reason to believe that the accused in so acting had any intention of insulting the religion of the Mohammedan residents of . that village, nor had he knowledge that any class of person was likely to consider the removal of the material an insult to their religion. On the other hand, in Srivokti Swami,14 where the accused, a goldsmith by caste, performed a ceremony called Abhishekam by pouring coconut water over the lingam of Lord Shiva, it was held that the act of the accused constituted an offence under this section, if the idol could not be touched by arty one except the Brahmins, and if the object of the accused in performing the ritual was to ridicule openly the established custom. Muthuswami Ayyar, J., while dismissing the appeal against acquittal, said that section 295, I.P.C. was enacted to prevent wanton insult to the- religious notions of a class of persons. He observed that The word defile (in section 295, I.P.C.) ought to be taken in the sense in which such class of worshippers usually understand it when it is applied to a place or an object of worship. In this sense it would include any act done in relation to the Lingam which would render it impure to the accuseds knowledge according to the recognised usage of the institution as an object of worship... If the accused knew that the temple in the
13

Jan Mohannnad V. Narain Das, (1 883)-AWN. p. 39

14

Weirs Criminal Rulings, Vol. 1, p. 253 quoted in Gopinath Puja Panda Samanto v. Ramchandra Deb AIR 1958 On 220(223). www.bleedlaw.com

www.bleedlaw.com case before us is one of those temples, and if he did the act imputed to him to ridicule openly the established rifle in regard to the purity of the Lingam as an object of worship, it may then be reasonably inferred that he did the act wantonly and with the intention of insulting the religious notions of the general body of worshipper.15 In Sheo Shankar,16 the accused destroyed a sacred thread worn by another person (Sudra) on the ground that, he was not entitled to wear it. Held, the act was not done with the intention of insulting the religion of the complainant. Neither could it be said that the accused had the knowledge that the complainant would be likely to consider the destruction; damage or defilement of the thread as an insult to his religion. The court observed that since Ahiras are Sudras, they are not entitled to wear a sacred thread. Wearing the sacred thread is not a part of their religion and, as such, damaging or destroying a thread worn, by them in assertion of a mere claim to a rank, could not amount to an insult to their religion. However, if a Mohammedan or a Christian or an atheist tore off the sacred thread worn by -a Hindu entitled to or even claiming to be entitled to wear it, and the assailant at the same time indicated. disrespect for the thread, such a person might be conceived to know that the person whose thread was so treated would be likely to consider it an insult to his religion. The act of the appellant in the impugned case was intended rather to teach the complainant not to be so presumptuous as to pretend to be something other than what he was. The truth of the matter is that it was not the religious sensibilities of the complainant which were injured, but his dignity, and therefore a conviction under section 295 I.P.C. was not sustainable. In Saidullah Khan17 the accused, a Mohammedan, threw a burning cigarette an- the viman (an object held sacred-by the Hindus) taken out by some Hindus in a procession.The

cigarette did not actually fall on the viman, but struck the side and thereafter fell on the ground. While holding the accused liable under this section the court said: The viman was taken out by the Hindus during a festival and apparently was an object held sacred by Hindus. If a burning cigarette was thrown on the viman, it would have defiled the sacred object. The viman was being carried on the shoulders and consequently, if a burning cigarette is thrown so as to defile that viman it cannot be said
15

Weris Criminal Rulings, Vol. I, p. 255. Sheo Shankar v. Emperor, AIR 1940 Oudh 348; Joseph v. State of Kerala, AIR 1961 Ker 28.
16 17

Saidullah Khan v. State of Bhopal, AIR 1955 Bhopal 23.

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www.bleedlaw.com that the act of the accused was unintentional, or that he did not have the guilty knowledge as contemplated by section 295, I.P.C. In any case, the accused would be supposed to have the knowledge that the Hindus were likely to consider such defilement to be an insult to their religion.18 (4) Destruction defilement and damage.As stated earlier, to bring an action under section 295, I.P.C. there must be destruction, damage or defilement of place of worship, or. an object held sacred. Defile means not only to make unclear, foul or dirty, but to render a place or an object ceremonially or ritually impure. In Kutti Chammi Moothan19 the accused, belonging to the Moothan caste (which is one of the divisions of the Sudra cast in Malabar) claimed the status of Vaisyas (of higher caste) and entered into the Nallambalam (precinct) of a temple not open to non-Brahmins. Held, the mere entry of a member of Moothan caste into the boundaries of a temple not open to non-Brahmins is not defilement. The word defilement under section 295, I.P.C. is not confined to the idea of making dirty; it also extends to ceremonial pollution but it Is certainly necessary to prove the pollution. (5) Place of worship.The common examples of places of worship are churches temples, mosques, gurdwaras, etc. Any place set apart and consecrated for the worship of deity becomes a place of worship. The Hindus consecrate such a place by placing a stone painted with ochre (light, yellow or red earth) to mark the spot. The Mohammedans fly a green flag from places, such as a tomb etc., which they esteem as an object of veneration. The question whether a thing is a place of worship is a question of fact, If the thing is considered by a class of persons as a place of worship, then it shall be so treated without considering its nature and character, if a class of persons are found to hold anything in esteem as an ob of veneration, it is a sacred object and the desecration is punishable under section 295, I.P.C. In Beckon Jha,20 where an attempt was made to bring into existence a public mosque on a plot in the possession of an agricultural tenant with no permission from the landlord, it was held that the use of a hut situated in that plot as a public mosque, without the landlordss permission, could not make it a place of worship as contemplated by section 295, I.P.C.

18 19

Id., p. 24. Kutti Chammi Moothan V. Rams Pattar, (1918) 19Cr LJ 960. 20 Beckon Jhan v. Emperor, AIR 1941 Pat 492

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www.bleedlaw.com Likewise, in Joseph,21 where the lessor had not let a site nor the shed on it to the Hindu public of the locality to be used as a temple or a place of worship, the court held that the mere fact that the lessees had used the same as a place of worship and permitted such use by other Hindus of the locality, could in no way prejudice the property right of the ISor over the property. Similarly, the mere running of a nursery school or a charitable dispensary ma portion of some church premise without hurting the feeling of any class of person etc. would not amount to an offence under section 295, I.P.C.22 (6) Sacred objectThe words any object held sacred by any class of persons are of general import and cannot be limited to idols in temple or idols carried on festival occasions, or sacred books such as the Gita, Koran, Bible, Guru Granth Saheb, etc. It includes any objects which is regarded sacred by a class of persons whether actually worshipped or not. In S. Veerahadran Chettiar,23 the accused leader of Dravida Kaza Kam (a community of persons who profess to be religious reformers), whose creed includes propagandising against idol worship, held to have vilified a certain section .f the Hindu community, through propaganda disseminated at meetings and in written articles. On one occasion the accused broke an idol of the God Ganesh in -public and before breaking it expressly stated in a speech that he intended to insult the feelings of the Hindu community by breaking an image of the God Ganesh. While holding the accused liable under section 295, I.P.C. their Lordships of the Supreme Court said: Any object, however trivial or destitute of real value in itself, if regarded as sacred by any class of persons, would come within the meaning of the penal section. Nor is it absolutely necessary that the object, in order to be held sacred; should have been actually worshipped. An object ma held sacred by a class of persons without being worshipped by them. Their Lordships further held that--The section has been intended to respect the religious susceptibilities of persons of different religious persuasions or creeds. Courts have got to be very circumspect in such matters, and to pay due regard to the feelings and religious emotions of different classes
21 22

Joseph v. State of Kerala, AIR 1961 Ker 28(31). D.P. Titus v. LW. Lyall 1981 CrLJ 68 All. 23 S. Veerahadran Chettiar v.E.V. Ramaswami Naicker, AIR 1958 SC 1032.

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www.bleedlaw.com of persons with different beliefs, irrespective of the consideration whether or not they share those beliefs, or whether they are rational or otherwise, in the opinion of the court.24 (7) Class of persons.The place of worship or object to veneration must be held sacred by a class of persons. A class of persons means a body of persons. In order to constitute a class or a body of persons there must be a principle of classification and even two persons will be sufficient to form a class, if those two persons according to the principle of classification adopted, form a group distinct from any other, group. The expression any class of persons includes religious sects howsoever small in number. *[295A. 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.] Deliberate and Malicious Act Meaning and Scope.Section .295A of the Penal Code was introduced in the Code by section 2 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 1927 with a view to punish deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or the religious beliefs. The provisions contained in the section are similar to common law crimes of blasphemy. It consists in the irreverent denial or ridicule of the Christian religion or contumelious (insulting language) reproaches (blame) of Jesus Christ, or scurrilous and profane scoffing at the Holy Scriptures or exposing any part thereof to hatred and ridicule.25

24

S.Verrabadran Chettiar v. E.V. Rama Swami Naicker, AIR 1958 SC 1032 (1035) (para 7). * Ins. by Act 25 of 1927, sec.2. ** Subs. by the A.O. 1950, for "His Majesty's subjects". *** Subs. by Act 41 of 1961, sec3, for certain words. @ Subs.by Act 41 of 1961, sec.3, for"two years". 25 R. v. Bradluagh, (1883) 15 Cox 21; Russell on Crime (Voll, 12th Ed. First Indian Reprint, 2001) p. 1519: blasphemy at common law, is an indictable misdemeanor, (offence) punishable by fine and (or) imprisonment, to speak or otherwise publish any matter blaspheming God, e.g., by denying his existence or providence or contumeliously (disrespectful way) reproaching Jesus Christ, or vilifying or bringing into disbelief or contempt or ridicule Christianity in general, or any doctrine of the Christian religion, or the Bible, or the Book of Common prayer. R. v. Richard Carlile, 1st Tr (N.S.) 1387.

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www.bleedlaw.com Blasphemous words are punishable because of their tendency to endanger the peace, to deprave public morals, to shake the fabric of society and to be a cause of civil strife.26 The section came on the statute book as a result of the widespread agitation by Mohammedans subsequent to the decision of the Lahore High Court in the Rajpaul case,27 popularly known as the Rangila Rasur case. The accused had published a pamphlet entitled Rangila Rasul (Amorous Prophet) in which he described the sexual incontinency (locking self control) of the Prophet Mohammed. Rajpaul was convicted under section 153A I.P.C, by the Magistrate, but the Lahore High Court quashed his conviction holding that section 153A of the Code was intended to prevent persons from making attacks on a particular community as it exists, in the present time and was not meant to stop polemics (controversial discussions) against a deceased religious leader, howsoever scrrilous (vulgar) and in bad taste such an attack might be. The court however visualised the lacuna in law and realised that the excoriation (a scathingly censorious utterance) of religious feelings, as was the case here, should have come within the tenor of provisions relating to prevention of offence against religious sentiments and beliefs, but because of the absence of an express provision the Magistrates decision could not have been otherwise. It is to fill this gap that section 295 I.P.C. was added in the Code. However, in a subsequent case, Devi Sharan Shanna v. Emperor,28 a Division Bench of the same Lahore High Court held that a scurrilous, vituperative (abusive) and foul attack on a religion or its founder would come within the purview of section 153A, I.P.C It is interesting to note that the Rajpaul case was neither cited nor considered by the High Court in this instance. On the other hand, the Allahabad High Court in Kali Charan Sharma
29

expressly dissented

from Rajpaul and held that the book entitled vichitra Jiwani, depicting the life of the Prophet Mohammed, promoted feelings of enmity between Hindus and Mohammedans and that the offence came under the purview of section 153A, I.P.C.

26

See Smith and Hogan, Criminal Lore, 6th S., (1988) 737-739. See Whitehouse v. Gay Neus Ltd., and Lemen, (1979) AC 617 (HL). 27 Rajpaul v. Emperor, AIR 1927 Lah 590.
28

AIR 1927 Lah 504.


Kalicharan Sharma v. King Emperor, AIR 1927 All 654.

29

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www.bleedlaw.com Constitutionality of section 295A, I.P.C.The constitutional validity of section 295A, I.P.C was challenged in Ramji Lal30 on the ground that it infringes the fundamental right, to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(l) (a)of the Constitution. While upholding the constitutionality of section 295A. I.P.C. the Supreme Court said that the section is enacted in the interest of the public order, and it only penalises the, aggravated form of insult to religion, when it is perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of a class of citizens. The section which penalises such activities is well within the protection of clause (2) of Article 19, as being a law imposing a reasonable restriction on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a). Again the constitutional guarantee of the right to freedom of religion under Articles 25 and 26, is subject to public order, morality and health. A restriction is valid on the right to freedom of religion in the interest of the State.31 In Sant Das Maheswari,32 it was held that section 295A, I.P.C. in no way prohibits or makes punishable anything which is a mere profession, practice or propagation of a religion or any of the things specified in Article 26 of the Constitution. What is made punishable is deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India. Thus section 295A, I.P.C. does not come into conflict with either Article 25 or 26 of the Constitution and cannot by any strentch of the imagination be said to be violative of those provisions. If it does impose any restrictions it is within the four corners of the expression subject to public order, morality and health. (3) IngredientsThe main ingredient of the section is to insult or attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of any class of citizens of India. In brief, to invoke section 295A, I.P.C. the following ingredients must exist 1. The accused must insult or make an attempt to insult the religion or religious beliefs of any class of persons; 2. The said insult, etc., must be with the deliberate and malicious intention of outranging the religious feelings of the said class of citizens;

30

Ram Ji Lal Mod, v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1957 SC 620. The petitioner, printer and publisher of a monthly magazine Gaurashak (Cow Protector), was convicted under section 295A of the Penal Code for the publication in the magazine of an article with a proscribed (forbidden) content. 31 See. S. Veerabadran Chettiar v. E.V. Ramaswamy Naiker, AIR 1958 SC 1032 32 Sant Das Maheswari v. babu Ram Jodou, , AIR 1969 All 436

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www.bleedlaw.com 3. The said insult must be by worth, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise. (Deliberate and malicious Intention.Section 295A, I.P.C. makes it an offence to speak or write with a deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India or insulting or attempting to insult the religious feelings of a class. This section only punishes an aggravated form of insult to religion when -it is perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of a class.33 But insults to religious feelings offered-carelessly or without deliberate and malicious intention do not come within the scope of section 295A, I.P.C. In Ramlal Puri,34 it was held that section 295A, I.P.C. requires a deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens. If a book gives an objective picture based on historical facts, it will not come within the mischief of section 295A, I.P.C. The test to be applied in determining whether the impugned act falls within the mischief of the section is: is the complaint that of an abnormal or hypersensitive man, or that of an ordinary man of ordinary common sense. If the complainant falls under the latter category, the person will be accountable otherwise not. The intention to outrage the religious feelings must be deliberate and premeditated. Only a cold, calculated and malicious attack on religious feelings is punishable under section 295A, I.P.C In King v. Nag Shew Hpi,35 it was held that an act may be deliberate without being malicious, since it may be reckless without being intentional. But for a charge under section 295A, I.P.C. the prosecution must show insult for the sake of insulting and with an intention which springs from malice. In Baba Khalil Ahamad,36 it was held that the writing must be with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of a class of citizens of India. It was further held that, in section 295A, l.P.C., the word malicious has not been used in the popular sense. In order to establish malice as contemplated by this section it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the applicant bore ill-will or enmity against specific persons. If an
33
34

Siva Ram D v of Punjab, AIR 1955 Pun) 28. Ramlal Puri v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1971 MI 152. 35 AIR 1939 Rang 199. 36 Baba Khalil Ahamad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1960 All 715 (718): (1960) Cr LJ 1528.

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www.bleedlaw.com injurious act was done voluntarily without a lawful and lust excuse, malice may be presumed. The court has to judge the intention not from the declaration made by the writer, but from the nature of the language he used and from the circumstances in which the work was published. Such intention must be judged primarily by the language of the work itself though it is permissible to receive and consider external evidence also. In Ambalal,37 it was held that the violently abusive and obscene diatribe (bitter criticism) against the founder or prophet of a religion or against a system of religion might amount , to an attempt to stir up hatred or enmity against the persons who follow that religion. To attribute to the Mohammedan religion the teachings of the doctrine of Dawood, a heretic (opposed to the doctrine or opinion contrary to the fundamental doctrine of Islam) is insulting to that religion, and if done deliberately and maliciously would fall under section 295A, I.P.C. To punish under section 295A, the act of insult to religion or religious belief must be committed by words either spoken or written or visible representation. In Sheo Shankar,38 it - was held that the section has no application to cases in which the accused has not, either by words used or by visible representation, such as caricature or the like, insulted the religion or the religious beliefs of the complainant. The a had merely broken the Janaoo (sacred thread) which the complainant was wearing on the grounds that he was not entitled to wear it. (5) Distinction between section 295A and section 295, I.P.C.Section 295A like section 295, deals with the offence of insulting the religious feelings of any class of persons. (i) But in section 295 the offence is committed by a certain kind of act, such as defilement, destruction or damage to any place of worship o any object held sacred, (ii) while under section 295A the offence is committed by. words spoken or written, or by signs or visible representations. 296. Disturbing religious assembly.Whoever voluntarily, causes disturbance to any assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship, or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either de for a term which may extend to one year, or with-fine, or with both.

37 38

Sheo Shankar v. Emperor, AIR 1940 Oudh 348.

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www.bleedlaw.com COMMENTS (1) Disturbing religious assembly.Section 296 punishes disturbances of religious assemblies, which may extend to one year of imprisonment, or with fine or with both. The section was enacted to give people a reasonable opportunity to perform the ceremony in quiet and peace. The persons assembled are given a right in their collective capacity. The - section closely corresponds with the English law relating to disturbance during the time of divine service. The object of section 296 is to secure freedom from molestation when people meet for the performance of acts which ordinarily take places in some quiet spot vested, for the time, in the assembly exclusively.39 The section punishes only a disturbance caused voluntarily to any assembly lawfully engaged in religious worship or religious ceremonies. The right given under this section does not belong to an individual or two but to followers of a particular religion collectively. It is a right which ensures non- disturbance during the performance of a religious ceremony.

39

Vijaraghava Chariar v. Emperor, (1903)ILR 26 Mad 554.

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www.bleedlaw.com Conclusion :The essence of the offence under this section is voluntarily40 causing disturbance to a religious assembly and it is immaterial whether the intention of the accused to disturb is due to religious animosity or any other cause. In Sunku Seethiah,41 it was held that to convict an accused under section 296, I.P.C. an active intention to disturb religious worship is not necessary. It is sufficient if the accused knowingly takes the risk and does actually cause disturbance by music or otherwise. To constitute an offence the following ingredients must exist, Viz. 1. There must be a voluntary disturbance caused; 2. The disturbance must be caused to an assembly engaged in religious worship; and 3. The assembly must be lawfully engaged in such worship or ceremonies, that is to say, they must be doing what they have a right to do.42

In Jaipal43 the court held that intention to cause a certain result is not an element pecessary to constitute voluntary causing of the result; the knowledge or belief In the likelihoed of the result may supplant intention. If, therefore, the accused knew or had reasons to believe that their act in removing an image was likely to cause disturbance to religious worship, then though they might not have intended to cause such a disturbance, yet the causing of disturbance would be voluntary within the meaning of section 296.

40 41

See I.P.C. section 39 for definition of 'Voluntarily'. P.P.v. Sunku Seethiah, (1911) ILR 34 Mad 92. 42 Jaipal Gir v. Dharma Pal, (1895) ILR 23 Cal 60. 43 Jaipal Gir v. Dharma Pal, (1895) ILR 34 Mad 92.

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www.bleedlaw.com Bibliography KD Gaur,Text Book on IPC,Universal Law Publishing Co. Hari Singh Gaur,Indian Penal Law,11th ed,2008,Vol-III,Law Publishers Pvt Ltd Bm Gandhi ,Indian Penal Code

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