Chandigarh, September 22
In a significant judgment liable to change the way people are proceeded against on the allegations of hurting religious sentiments, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that insults to a religion made unwittingly or carelessly without malicious or deliberate intent would “certainly be out of the purview of Section 295A of the IPC”
Clarifying the scope of Section 295A dealing with offenses related to insulting religious sentiments, Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul reiterated that the provision of the Indian Penal Code did not penalise “any and every act of insult or an attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of a person or a community”.
Justice Kaul asserted it penalises only those acts of insults or attempts which had been perpetrated with a deliberate and malicious intent so as to outrage the religious feelings of a particular class/community. The assertion came as the Bench quashed the FIR and all consequential proceedings arising from it with regard to the petitioner, who had mentioned about a book to the complainant in the matter.
The FIR was registered on March 31, 2012, under Sections 295A and 53A of the IPC at Subhanpur police station in Kapurthala district. Justice Kaul asserted the court failed to comprehend how the petitioner committed an offence “inviting the mischief of Section 295A of the IPC”. He was neither the author, nor the publisher or editor of the book. As per the FIR’s contents, he had mentioned about the book to the complainant.
In her detailed order, Justice Kaul added: “A bare reading of the FIR reveals that no allegations have been levelled against the petitioner, much less of distorting any facts relating to the life of Maharishi Valmik or he having intentionally circulated or distorted information about Maharishi Valmik. Thus, the petitioner without a doubt is on a much better footing than co-accused –– publisher and author of the Book, qua whom the FIR in question already stands quashed vide order dated March 24.”
The judgment also took note of the fact that the publishing house involved in the case had taken steps to make amends in subsequent publications. It had deleted the alleged offending portions of the book, showing deference to the feelings of the complainant.
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