OFFENCES AGAINST RELIGION: Recently in Bangalore allegedly some relative of a politician posted something offensive toward a religion that led to havoc in the city. After the post getting viral, an unruly crowd started to break law and order and did a huge damage to life and property. In this whole process, there are two crimes involved. One, the crime that the alleged person did by posting something offensive against a religion and the other one the unruly crowd did by doing destruction in the city, this is a reaction to the first crime nevertheless it is still a crime as serious as any other. In this article we will talk about the first crime and reserve the second for some other day.
Freedom of religion remains as an essential component in the Indian Constitution. The constitution of India safeguards our right to follow, practice, belief and worship any religion of our choice. The religion as a concept remains outside the domain of the state meaning there shall be no interference from the side of the state in our free practice of our religion, nevertheless it’s the state responsibility to protect our rights as a religious practitioner. In furtherance to the idea that the state needs to protect our religious rights, the state has devised various laws that talks about punishment to those who commits crime against religion.
Fundamentally it important to understand what exactly we mean when we say crime against religion. Religious crime is a crime where the object or the subject of the criminal behaviour is religion. When a crime is motivated by or in reaction to religious texts, scriptures, doctrine, photos, arts, event, people or institutions which are sacrosanct for the people who follow that religion is a crime against religion.
The Indian Penal Code mainly talks about three category of crime against religion, one, destruction of places of worship and object (Section 295 and 297) and , second, outraging the religious sentiments of the person (Section 153A, 295A and 298) and third creating problem in religious processions and assemblies (Section 296). Section 295 states that when someone destroys, damages and defiles any religious or worship place with the sole intention to defame or insult that religion, then that person is held liable under this provision. The punishment is imprisonment of two years or fine or both. Under Section 297, whenever someone trespass into a worship place, or burial or crematorium with the intention to hurt the religious sentiment of other person then under this provision he/she is punished with imprisonment of one year or with fine or both.
Section 153A states that whoever indulges in vilification or attacks upon the religion and disturbs the peace and harmony will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall be liable to fine. Section 295A deals with people who deliberately and maliciously intended to indignation religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs by word, or by signs or by visible representations shall be punished with imprisonment of term which may extend to 3 years or with fine or both. This provision was challenged in the case of Ramji Lal Modi V. State of Uttar Pradesh, the five judge bench of the apex court held the provision valid. The top most court observed that it is constitutionally valid under Article 19 of Indian Constitution. Section 298 says that when a person utter any word or sound (or gesture) with an intention to hurt the religious belief of some other person then the person shall be punished with one year of imprisonment or fine or both.
Section 296 deal with any person who deliberately “disturbs religious assembly” or religious ceremonies shall be liable for imprisonment of one year or fine or both.
Section 66A, the section talks about the punishment for sending abusive or false messages through communication services etc. Whenever anyone post anything on social media about any fake news or false incident which has some relation to religion, then he/she can be tried under this section. When someone send or post some false information about religion or post something which is offensive to any religion with having the knowledge that the post is false, but still post it to cause inconvenience or disharmony then that person will be held liable under provision. The punishment this provision prescribes is three year of imprisonment and fine. (This provision has been repealed. The Supreme Court, in 2015, declared it unconstitutional as it was considered as too broad)
In these times spreading hatred in the name of religion is thumb away, all thanks to advent of social media. In social media, information spreads like wildfire. And when it comes to fake news, false information or message which has potential to disturb peace, harmony and tranquillity in a society then the information spreads in a lightning speed. The laws punishing people who are spreading hatred in the name religion needs to be more stringent and more importantly laws needs to be developed to inculcate offences that are committed against religion on online social media platforms or over the internet as it is quite difficult to book these people under IPC. When we read any text of any religion with proper interpretation then we will find all religion teaches us peace, harmony and brotherhood and whenever anyone misunderstand or misinterpret things then that leads to destruction. We all need to understand the concept of mankind and needs to value someone else’s culture, religion and values.
 Section 297, IPC
 Section 153A, IPC
 Section 295, IPC
 1957 AIR 620
 Section 298, IPC
 Section 298, IPC
 Section 66A, IT Act