Religious Sentiments Can Be Hurt Only By Specific Intent, Rules Tripura Court
Unwitting insults to religion, made without any malicious intention to outrage the feelings of a religious group, isn’t an offence under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, the Tripura High Court has ruled.
The single-judge bench of Chief Justice Akil Kureshi was hearing a petition to quash a First Information Report (FIR) filed against the petitioner for hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus by insulting the Bhagwad Gita on social media.
The petitioner’s post, which was in Bangla, said “thakbhaji Gita,” which the complainers interpreted as the religious text being insulted as “deceitful.” The petitioner, however, argued that he merely meant that the Gita is a “pan which fries swindlers” — since “thak” refers to swindlers, and “bhaja” means frying in Bangla. He also told the court that he was being targeted because of his rationalist views on social media.
Quashing the FIR, the court noted that the term coined by the petitioner “certainly does not convey the meaning which the complainant wants to ascribe to it.”
Related on The Swaddle:
Further, “Section 295A does not penalize any and every act of insult or an attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs…. Insults to religion made unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of a class would not come within the said section,” the court added.
The judgment was delivered amid a climate of Section 295A being increasingly invoked to book citizens. In January, comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested for hurting religious sentiments under the same section — to be granted bail a month later by the Supreme Court, which found the allegations against him “vague.”
Similarly, another FIR was filed against Aparna Purohit, the head of Amazon Prime Video in India, among others, alleging that the web series Tandav, which the platform hosted, depicted Hindu gods in a disrespectful manner.
While the present judgment may not address the spate of FIRs lodged under the statute across India, it does serve as a reminder that Section 295A “penalizes only those acts of insults or attempts which have been perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention,” and not otherwise.