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Blasphemy Laws

In a diverse democracy of India, where there are a lot of social system who live and survive together, follow certain ethical and moral rules, which are uniform to everyone's religious teachings that is, to recognize and respect other's sacred beliefs and to show benevolence to other's religion or in what-so-ever subject.

Starting from person's status to his religion. Everything should be respected. This sense makes India a unified nation, even being divided into various diversities. But certain fringe elements, fail to obey and fail to limit themselves in the boundaries of such ethical rules. As we talk about insulting someone's religion and connected beliefs.

Such fringed elements misuse their freedom of speech and expression and overuse their right to offend. In this blog, we will talk about what is the concept of insulting someone's religious and sacred beliefs called, how it originated in India, how it became a legal concept and how legal provisions connected to it are actually misused. This blog's material is prepared using doctrinal research methodology.

Do Gods care about what mere human beings say about them? Nobody has ever meet God, so no one knows the fact. It's the followers who become protector of their God, that they pray to and that causes complications and this is what leads to concepts like blasphemy. Blasphemy is when you insult my religious feeling or I insult yours or somebody insults/disrespects somebody's religious feeling, this implies you are blaspheming my God, my holy religion and my holy scriptures.

It is not a new concept, it existed since human origin and since belief in to God and since their belief in God and concept of religion developed. The word Blasphemy came via middle English "blasfemen", old French "blasfamer" and late Latin "blasphemare" where "Blas" meant to injure and "phemy" meant utterance, talk and speech.

Today the most important thing is what is happening in the name of protests, which broke out on June 11, 2022 and spread in large parts of the country, particularly after Friday prayers. Quite a bit of anger was seen in Gulf countries also. The central government even took actions by suspending the alleged blasphemers from their party just to pour oil over the troubled waters.

The Muslim community was also angry and demanded the arrest of the alleged accused. This massive outbreak was seen when the community members actively became violent. This triggered one thing in their mind that India has Blasphemy laws.

We also hear about blasphemy laws in Pakistan as well, we hear the cases like Asiya Bibi, who was given Death sentence for which she was convicted for Blaspheming the holy Prophet. Her action took her life.

Blasphemy Laws in India

India being a diverse country and with ample of religion, also have some kinds of blasphemy laws, which don't use the term directly, but mean the same, they can be easily understood by a little interpretation.
  1. Section 295 of Indian Penal Code:
    According to Section 295 of the I.P.C, anyone found guilty of destroying, damaging, or defiling a house of worship or a sacred object with the aim to disparage the faith of a group of people faces up to two years in prison, a fine, or a combination of the two. To oblige people to respect the religious sensitivities of people of different religious persuasions or creeds, this clause has been adopted.
  2. Section 295A of Indian Penal Code.
    The purpose of Section 295A is to prohibit intentional and malicious conduct meant to offend any class's religious sentiments by shielding their religion or religious beliefs. Only when an aggravated form of insult to religion is committed with the purposeful and malicious goal of upsetting the religious sentiments of a class is it punishable under this clause.

    There was a major verdict of the Apex court, which somehow tries to explain the applicability of section 295A, which was in the case of Mahendra Singh Dhoni v. Yerraguntla Shyamsundar and Another, in which the Supreme Court held that the section does not criminalize every act which insults or attempts to insult religious sentiments. It only criminalizes those acts which are intentional as well as malicious in nature.

    Additionally, there have been numerous constitutional defenses of blasphemy laws, including Ramji Lal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh. The five-judge panel in this case upheld the legality of section 295A. The defendant, Mr. Ramji Lal, served as the magazine's editor. He was accused of posting articles that were offensive to religion. According to Mr. Ramji Lal, his right to free expression is properly protected by article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution, and as a result, his content is likewise protected by the same provision.
  3. Section 153A of Indian Penal Code.
    The intent of Section 153 A is to punish those who engage in willful denigration of or attacks on any particular group or class, as well as its founders and prophets, or on grounds of race, religion, nationality, place of birth, domicile, or language. The scope of this Section is expanded to include the propagation of hostility, animosity, hatred, or other negative emotions toward other castes, communities, racial groups, or ethnicities. In this section, the offence of moral turpitude is also covered.

    The offence is a cognizable offence, and the maximum sentence is three years in prison, a fine, or a combination of the two. This section too falls under the category of Blasphemy Laws.

Origin, Reality & Misuse of Provisions

A major incident in the British era took place where in the mid-1920s and Arya Samajist writer wrote a book called "Ranglia Rasool", referring to the holy prophet which Muslims found offensive. He was then assassinated and the murderer was hailed as a hero. In order to correct this loophole British introduced section 295A. It was previously to prevent publication of books like that or articles, cartoons, speech etc. were also covered. Section 295A has been in the books since 1927.

Since the acts end the sections state that's the offense is cognizable and non-bailable, it can be misused at a great deal because it's for any plaintiff to say that whatever somebody said I felt insulted. Example, Raj Kapoor film song, "Kaafir Sharab", raised a philosophical point which in today's world may sound offensive and can be traced as an offence under blasphemy. Amir Khan's P.K. also faced huge backlash from all religious communities. Section 295A is open to all kinds of interpretation, due to which many cases around can be easily called as an offense under this section.

Restrictions on Freedom of Speech

Any person can take good defense of his freedom of speech as against his blasphemous remark. However, when the constitution of India got passed, Article 19; which gives us the freedom of speech and expression got amended. It was the First Amendment in the constitution. The event laid some reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech. Section 295, 295A, 153 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code are these reasonable restrictions. A 5 judge bench of Supreme Court in 1957 upheld the following restrictions.

Role of Right to Offend

A deep role in the case of blasphemy incidents is played by a so-called negative right which is right to offend. One of the rights under the freedom of speech and expression, under Article 19 is right to offend. It is the right to voice one's opinion on a subject which is protected. When a viewpoint is expressed on contentious issues or any sensitive matter, there is a chance that someone may take it as an offence. It is quite similar and related to blasphemy.

However, rather than being as an insulting praise, it should be viewed as an opinion the problem with such a viewpoint is that only certain individuals or community members could find it offensive. Those who voice their ideas on those issues may not find it disrespectful.

But then comes the famous quote, "The right to offend is universal you can give as much offense to the person as the other person is willing to take."

Author's Contention
Sections governing blasphemy laws in India are quite mild but it's deterrent. This needs to be respected because India needs to have social cohesion. Under the provisions there is no right to offend Hindus, Muslims, seeks and any other religion in existence.

Blasphemy is itself a large intellectual debate and India does not need a new blasphemy law because as according to times of now report the introduction of any stricter laws in addition to the current ones may increase frivolous litigation. Provisions in their IPC are considered just fair and enough to tackle the offences against religion and hate speech.

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