Section 295A - An Analysis

Section 295A – The background

Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code is aimed at restraining anyone from doing such act which will outrage the religious feelings of any class. In other countries there are laws for blasphemy but in India there is no such law, the nearest law is section 295A.

Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code talks about deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs. It states that any person who with deliberate and malicious intention outrages the religious feelings of any class of citizen of India by his acts spoken, written, by signs or by any visible representations, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs commits an offence under Indian Penal Code.

An analysis of Section 295A

The offence committed under Section 295A is cognizable and a non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. Non-bailable offence means that a person arrested would not have right to be released on bail soon after arrest. In this case it is the discretion of the Court to grant or refuse to grant bail. Further non-compoundable offence means an offence which cannot be settled or pardoned by the affected party or the victim.

The offence committed under this section is cognizable in nature, which means that a competent Police officer can arrest the accused without any warrant and then he has to be produced before the Magistrate and only if the Magistrate feels and is satisfied that a case is made out against him that he would be detained otherwise would be released.

The section uses the phrase ‘malicious and deliberate acts’, which needs to be interpreted cautiously, as each and every act which might offend a particular religious class or group, cannot said to have been done with the intent to insult or hurt the feelings of any such class.

Constitutional Aspect of Section 295A

Article 19(1) (a) talks about freedom of speech and expression but the subsequent clauses of the Article enumerate ‘reasonable restriction’. When we look at the constitutional aspect of Section 295A we see that it falls under the ‘reasonable restriction’ of the said Article, which states that no person should use this fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression to insult or hurt the religious sentiments of any class. This is considered to be a punishable offence.

On the other hand it is felt that this section should not completely stop us from using our rationality. Many sections of our society are into superstitious practices which does no good either to them in particular or to the society in general. Therefore, Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code should not be a hindrance in making the society free from these obsolete practices. There are many self-styled Godmen, who are just blindfolding the society and if an attempt is made to open the eyes of people, Section 295A should not be there to condemn and reprimand these eye-openers. Similar is the case with the scholars and historians who in their research enter the religious arena, which is a very obvious thing to happen as India in the past has been very rich on the religious aspect and it continues to be the same. This section should not restrict them in their research as it is an inevitable part of a progressive society.

We need is a revisit this colonial law to narrow down the purview of Section 295A so that it doesn’t threaten the freedom of expression/media.

Recent cases related to section 295A

Kiku Sharda matter (2016):

Actor Kiku Sharda was recently arrested for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on his show under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code. In Kiku Sharda matter, he did an act which outraged the feelings of the followers of Dera Sachha Sauda Chief. Though he said his intention was not to hurt the religious feelings of any class but just to entertain people.

Girl arrested for questioning total shutdown on Bal Thackeray’s funeral (2012):

In year 2012, a girl posted on her facebook wall against the shutdown in the city on Bal Thackeray’s funeral and some other girl signed it. The duo was booked under section 295A and 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 and was arrested subsequently. This case created a lot of hue & cry and led to the amendment in Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000.

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