Law And Religion: Fighting Intolerance In Legal Way
Updated: Jan 18
In light of recent acts of violence involving religion, it is important to understand the scenarios and the varied aspects related to them from a legal point of view. India is a sovereign country where the laws are made by the State, and no individual is above the law, and therefore does not have the authority to violate the supremacy of the State in any way.
India is a secular nation where the State is divorced from religion. As true as it is, there is equal truth in the fact that India is a land of religions, and even though the State is indifferent to religion, the citizens are not. For this very reason, the Indian Constitution gives its citizens the Right to Freedom of Religion under Article 25 (1), and the State has made laws to regulate matters in which religious sentiments of a community are hurt and provides punishment to the offenders under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
To declare that religious sentiments do not matter in a country like India would be careless and immature because the beliefs of billions of people do matter; not only in India but all across the world. When there is freedom of religion, it also implies to punish those who commit any act with the intent to curtail that freedom or insult it.
What the citizens of India seem to fail to understand is that hurting the sentiments of any religion is a crime, which calls for the offender to be punished for the same. But, it is not for them to bring justice to those who have been wronged, that power lies with the courts alone. It is for precisely this purpose that a system of law and justice exists in the country.
Categories of Offences related to marriage
Defilement of places of worship or objects of great respect
Any person who does an act of degrading or destroying places of worship or objects that are considered sacred by religion, to insult that religion, is guilty and punishable under Section 295 of IPC with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both.
Similarly, if a person trespasses in a place of worship, or sepulture, or on burial grounds, or in a place set aside for funeral rites, intending to hurt religious sentiments of religion, that person is liable under Section 297, and punishable with imprisonment up to one year, or with fine, or both.
2. Outraging religious feelings
This category of offences is dealt with by Section 295 (A) and Section 298 of IPC. Section 295 (A) punishes a person who, with the spiteful intention of hurting the religious feelings, or uses words (either spoken or written) or visuals, or other methods that insult the religious feelings or beliefs of a community. The offender may be imprisoned for a term which may extend to three years or levied with fine, or both. The offence committed under this Section is cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
Further, there is provision for punishing a person who utters any word that can be heard by a person or makes any gesture in front of the sight of that person, intending to injure the religious beliefs of the person. It is dealt under Section 298 of the Code, and the person liable shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine, or both.
3. Disturbing religious assemblies
Disturbing religious assemblies means causing voluntary disturbance to any assembly lawfully engaged in worship or religious ceremonies. The offender is punished under Section 296 of IPC and is punishable with imprisonment that may extend to one year, or with fine, or both.
Other than these provisions, Section 153 of IPC also deals with the offence of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and disturbing the harmony of the country. The person liable of such offence shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or both. Clause (2) of the Section provides punishment for the above-mentioned offence committed in a place of worship, or a religious assembly, and punishes the offender with imprisonment which may extend to five years, and also imposes fine for the same.
Being aware of the laws and the provisions helps one to have logical and rational thinking, and encourages one to follow the law and have faith in the system, rather than taking the anger out on the streets through violence and destruction. Always remember that secularism must not be confused with the freedom to insult a religion, and the supremacy of law must not be encroached upon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yagya Bharadwaj is a Fourth-year BA.LL.B (Hons) student at Amity Law School, Noida.
They can be contacted at mailto:Ygaya9@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/yagya-bharadwaj-66458317b/
Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair
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