IPC Sec 295A. – 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, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, 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.
The above law is one of the most confusing and loosely worded law, hindering the very ethos of Freedom of Speech (which also is imbibed with Right to Offend and also Right to be Offended). Adjectives are given more importance than objectivity in framing of current IPC section, which is against the very essence of Justice.
I am not legal eagle, and hence my opinion is of layman, where I am force to think, how– deliberate insult; insult by sign or visible representation or otherwise (which is left undefined) of religious belief, would or can be proven; when religious belief is considered, what is the sample size which is considered, to determine, whether religious belief of those following a religion is been insulted / offended or not; how to determine whether act was insulting to religion? Will it by referendum among the people of that religion and if more than 50% vote says they feel offended, court agrees on the case?
Deliberate also means intentional; so does the law allows unintentional insult of religious sentiments/beliefs? What is malicious intention? What is class? And finally, insult by otherwise means, what does it mean, anyway?
The law leaves with more questions, than answers to be implemented, if at all.
Given my views on IPC sec295A, I found myself at extremes of usage of #295A, with in 1 week.
- When a portal #ScrollDroll published few comic / cartoons depicting Hindu deity in funny way. Which many took offense at, from seeking apology to even boycott of e-commerce portal #Myntra, who’s named featured in one of the cartoon.
- Two Social media politically affiliated personalities, voiced their opinion on Jain Saint, in derogatory manner, offending religious sentiments of many Jains.
In the first case, my opinion is to support #ScrollDroll portal’s right to express themselves, and have a cartoon, even if it has humor touch, which was believed to be mocking Hindu God or events related to Hindu God. Only request to portal was be equal gutsy with all religion, rather then selective targeting a single religion (which is not illegal technically; but exposes hypocrisy by targeting selectively). Intent to insult was not clear; also Hinduism has always been accommodating not only humor on God but also diverse opinion or even questioning of God. There has been many documented literature where the learned Hindu have questioned their own religion and even presented differing view from majority belief; surprisingly Hindus have always accommodated and at times accepted the view to evolve and reform internally. Hence Abrahamic reaction of agitating against humor as blasphemy or insult to Hinduism, made many of us uncomfortable; since, Hinduism does not have blasphemy law.
While in Second case, where two individuals, Vishal Dadlani, affiliated with Aam Aadmi Party and Tehseen Poonawala, affiliated with Congress Party, unleashed their opinion on Jain Saint on social networking platform #Twitter, in crude language to the level of being derogatory. In ideal scenario, and considering the above understanding of sec295A, the tweet should have been let off; however bigger malice lies in the history and the context; where both the individual along with their supporters and party they are affiliated to repeat offenders but selective in attacking on Hindu’s sentiment.
Even though I am against Sec295A, I have filed police complaint against both Mr. Dadlani and Mr. Poonawala, not because I felt religious sentiments of Jain is hurt (many Jains did feel offended; but no way to ascertain the sample size); But because I seek uniform application of law on all citizens, irrespective of gender / caste / religion, till the time the law exists and it is not repealed.
Just few months ago, a person named Kamlesh Tewari commented that Mohd Prophet was Gay; as reaction, to Mr. Azam Khan’s statement on RSS Leaders are Gay for not marrying. While, Azam Khan escaped from legal scrutiny, hell broke loose on Mr. Tiwari, against whom there were protest in many cities, certain mullah announcing bounty on his head. Aam Aadmi Party and Congress protested in parliament, to the extent of demanding death penalty for kamlesh Tiwari. Government and Police also acted swiftly by charging Kamlesh Tiwari under National Security Act, and currently Mr. Tiwari is in jail for all this months. It is also funny to note, the mullah who announced bounty on Kamlesh’s head is still a free person. Hence, either Kamlesh Tiwari be released and compensated, also allowed to express his opinion; or until the law exists, Mr. Dadlani along with Poonawala be jailed too. As this case is less of religious sentiments for me, personally; but it is more of uniform implementation of law on all Indian citizens.
I would end this blog, with the appeal to pressure the government and legal fraternity to repeal this absurd and obscure sec295A; or worst and the least, atleast define and word the law in better form, to avoid multiple and subjective interpretation depending on who reads it.
Picture Courtesy – www.indianpenalcode.com, www.beingindian.com, www. theweek.in