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Blasphemy: How Severe Are The Consequences

India is a secular country[1].is blasphemy punishable in India?

Blasphemy is punishable in many nations across the world even in some countries it is punished with capital punishment or death penalty . the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity or sacred things or towards something considered sacred or inviolable is the simple meaning of blasphemy.

Blasphemy is defined as the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God accused of blasphemy or irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable[2].something that you say or do that shows you do not respect God or a religion:[3]impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.and the irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.

Blasphemy laws across the world and the agenda in Pakistan

Blasphemy laws are used in country of state religion or the one which are not secular and having an official religion .According to pew research 21 November 2012 there were 33 countries having blasphemy laws in their country which includes Iran, Indonesia Egypt, Afghanistan, Algeria etc. As per the pew report 2019 there are 79 countries which had laws or policies banning blasphemy of which there were 26 commonwealth states of which New zealand and Malta had repealed blasphemy laws in 2019 and 2016 respectively.

Agenda in Pakistan:

Pakistani law penalizes blasphemy against any recognized religion leading to penalties including fine ,imprisonment or even sentence to death In 2021 Islamabad anti terrorism court had sentenced three men to death for sharing blasphemous content on social media .[4] not only non muslims but Pakistan's minority Shias too are accused of blasphemy for their beliefs

Provisions for blasphemy in criminal law of India

There are certain act of blasphemy which are made punishable in India for which legal provision exists in ipc . in this context the most relevant is section 295A which mentions that Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or 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 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.[5]

Section 153A is also relevant which attempts to punish those who engage in promoting any kind of enmity among different groups on the basis of religion, caste, race, place of birth or residence, or even language.

The provision puts a liability on those who:
Spread enmity in the form of words (spoken or written), visual representations, and signs with the intention of causing disharmony, hatred or disturbance among people belonging to different groups, religions, castes or communities.

Spread disharmony and disturb the public tranquility of the people belonging to different racial and religious groups.

Aid in the organizing of certain movements, drills that encourage as well as train the participants of such movements to use criminal force and violence upon people belonging to other racial and religious groups and communities.

In addition , depending on facts of the case some other legal provisions may also be relevant including 153AA 153B 124A

Section 95 of criminal procedure code: power to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue search warrants for the same:
  • Any newspaper or book or any document
  • Contains any matter the publication of which is punishable under section 124-A or section 153-B or section 295-A of the Indian penal code
  • State government may, by notification , declare every copy to be forfeited to government
  • Any police officer may seize the same wherever found in India
  • Any magistrate may by warrant authorize any police officer below the rank of sub �inspector to enter upon and search for the same in any premises


Constitution of India and blasphemy

Article 19 of the Indian constitution provides for fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression with reasonable restrictions may be imposed in the interests of:
  • The sovereignty and integrity of India
  • The security of the state
  • Friendly relations with foreign states
  • Public order
  • Decency or morality, or
  • In relation to contempt of court ,defamation, or incitement to an offence

Which means where there is freedom of speech and expression given in constitution but certain reasonable restrictions can also be imposed on them.

Judicial pronouncements

Ramji Lal Modi v. State of U.P [6] the Supreme Court held that every action does not lead to outraging religious sentiments. It had also stated that a person will be liable under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code,1860 if his action had led to the insult of religious feelings of the people belonging to the other community. The action of the accused must be intentional and malevolent.[7]

Mahendra Singh Dhoni v. Yerraguntla Shyamsundar[8], decided on 20.04.2017 : Quashing the complaint filed against Mahendra Singh Dhoni for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of people when an image of him being portrayed as Lord Vishnu was published in a magazine with a caption "God of Big Deals", the Court said that Section 295A IPC does not stipulate everything to be penalised and any and every act would tantamount to insult or attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of class of citizens.

It penalize only those acts of insults to or those varieties of attempts to insult the religion or religious belief of a class of citizens which are perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class of citizens. [9]

Hence we can conclude while extreme punishments is not prescribed in Indian law but there are many provisions in India to punish blasphemyÍ™.

End-Notes:
  1. The Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act, 1976". Government of India. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2010 https://web.archive.org/web/20150328040620/http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/amend/amend42.htm
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blasphemy
  3. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/blasphemy
  4. Asad, Tahir Naseer | Malik (8 January 2021). "Islamabad ATC sentences 3 to death for sharing blasphemous content on social media". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  5. section 295A INDIA PENAL CODE ,1860
  6. 1957 AIR 620, 1957 SCR 860
  7. moumita mondal , misuse of section 295A of ipc in light of sudheer rikhari v. state of goa IPLEADERS,may12,2021 . https://blog.ipleaders.in/misuse-section-295a-ipc-light-sudheer-rikhari-v-state-goa/
  8. 2017 SCC OnLine SC 450
  9. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2017/04/21/complaint-against-ms-dhoni-for-allegedly-hurting-religious-sentiments-quashed/

Written By: Kumari Sheetal, Student Of BA LLB At SRMS College Of Law Bareilly Uttar Pradesh

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