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ABSTRACT

The principle on which this chapter has been framed is that every man should be suffered
to profess his own religion and no man should be suffered to insult the religion of another.

There are five offences against religion as follows:

1. Section 295: Destroying, damaging or defiling any place of worship or sacred object with
intent to insult the religion of any class of persons or with knowledge that such class is
likely to feel insulted – Simple or rigorous imprisonment up to two years or fine or both.
2. Section 295-A: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feeling of any
class of citizens of India or attempt to insult their religion or religious beliefs – Simple or
rigorous imprisonment up to two years or fine or both. It has been held that the intention
prescribed by this section is to be gathered primarily from the language, contents and
import of the offending publication. It is well settle that to come within the ambit of Section
295-A, the intent must be both malicious and deliberate.1
3. Section 296: Voluntary disturbing a religious assembly lawfully engaged in worship or
ceremonies – Simple or rigorous imprisonment up to one year or fine or both.
4. Section 297: Trespassing in a place of worship or burial place, or offering any indignity to
corpse, or disturbing persons performing funeral ceremonies, with intent to wound the
feelings or to insult the religion of any person or with the knowledge that the feelings of
such person are likely to be wounded – Simple or rigorous imprisonment up to one year or
fine or both.
5. Section 298: Uttering any word or sound in the hearing of a person or making any gesture,
or placing any object in the sight of any person with deliberate intent to wound his religious
feelings - Simple or rigorous imprisonment up to one year or fine or both.

Aim:

To study the offences against religion – the present scenario.

Scope:

1
.K.Singh v State of Bihar, AIR 1986 Pat 98
The study shall be limited to the Indian Context.

INTRODUCTION:

At common law, it was a misdemeanor to publish blasphemous matter. The criminal justice
and Immigration Act 2008 s 79 abolishes the offence of blasphemy and blasphemous libel
from a date to be appointed.

The actus reus comprises publishing blasphemous material. Publication may be oral or in
written, and prosecution have targeted theatre production and films recordings as well as books
and magazines. It is a defence if the publication was without D’s authority, consent or
knowledge and there was no lack of due care on his part. Procedural safeguards also exist : an
order from a judge in chamber is required before a prosecution of a newspaper proprietor or
editor can occur.

Stephen explained, “all proceed upon the plain principle that the public importance of the
Christian religion is so good no one is allowed to deny its truth”. The gist of the offence was
said to be ‘a supposed tendency to shake the fabric of society generally’. The law was stated
in these broad terms, there is no recorded instance of a conviction for blasphemy where an
element of ‘contumely and ribaldry’ was absent. In the nineteenth century, it was held that the
act of denying the truth of Christianity would not be criminal if it was expressed in decent and
temperate language and not in such terms were likely to lead to a breach of the peace. ‘If the
decencies of controversy are observed, even the fundamentals of religion may be attacked
without the writer being guilty of blasphemy. Stephen found himself unable to accept this
milder view of the law because of the weight of the earlier authorities; but the milder view
found with the house of lords in Bowman vs Secular Society Ltd. In this case, it was held that
a company formed to promote the secularization of the state was not lawful even though one
of its objects was to deny Christianity.

Blasphemy can be established only if what is done or said is such as to induce a reasonable
reaction involving civil strife, damage to the fabric of society or their equivalent and in modern
times it is scarcely conceivable that any utterance denying or denouncing Christianity could
seriously be expected to produce such drastic results.
The potential for blasphemy prosecutions is future reduced by the courts conclusion that the
offence is not available under the Theatres Act 1968,s 2(4).

In Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex p Choudhury, it was argued for the first time
that the offence of blasphemy is applicable to religion other than Christianity. The court held
that the law applies only to Christianity, and possibly only to the established church, though
the latter point was not decided. The court had no power to extend the law to other religions
and would not have exercised it if it had. Judicial decision is not appropriate means of resolving
matters which involve such complex issues of public policy. Accordingly, it was held that the
chief magistrate had rightly refused to issue summonses alleging blasphemous libel against the
religion. An attack on the doctrines of Christianity may amount to an offence, even if not
directly attacking the established church, because that is the religion of the established church.