• Legis Scriptor

An Analysis of Religious Laws and Religious crime in India

Authored by Yatharth Chauhan

Keywords: Freedom, Fundamental Right, Custom and Indispensable.


Secularism is an indispensable part of India. Freedom concerning religion is a fundamental right awarded to every citizen of India. Religion is not only an important aspect when it comes to India rather several other countries partner themselves with religion. It cannot be turned down that India is a nation of religious variation and the flexibility regarding religion is developed in both laws as well as custom. Religion has always been an essential ingredient when it comes to a way of life. The instant article aims at propounding the concept of Religion within the ambit of the Indian Constitution as well as the Indian Penal Code along with the relevant case laws.


Religion plays a very vital role in the life of human beings not only based on belief but also based on the standard of living their life because the livelihood varies from religion to religion. Due to which the religion comes within the ambit of Law wherein an individual is admonished to embrace certain rules and regulations or not to cause the grave miscarriage of them pronounced by any state.

It can be contended that both Law, as well as Religion, are co-related with each other since, before the existence of the state or notion of democracy, all the human beings were locked up to act following the obligations arising out of religion and also witness their rights concerning Religion. The 42nd Amendment to the Indian constitution, ratified in the year 1976, has granted the position of secular to our Nation.

The preamble of our Indian constitution claims that India is a secular country but also the State does not have its religion and does not advocate any of the religion. However, the State act as a preserver of Religion.

It is crystal clear that provision regarding secularism comes within the ambit of Article 25, Article 26, Article 27, Article 28, Article 29, and Article 30 of the Indian constitution. In the case of Kutti Chanama Moothan v. Ranapattar[1], it was said that it is the philosophy of sound administration that every person should be granted certain rights to demonstrate his religion and no person has a right to abuse the religion of any other person.

Offense concerning Religion under Indian Penal Code

Within the ambit of the Indian Penal Code, crime regarding Religion is divided into three categories namely Defilement of Places about Worship or Objects of Great Value, Scandalizing the religious feeling, and inconvenience to religious assemblies.

Defilement of Places about Worship or Objects of Great Value (section 295 as well as section 297)

The term 'Defile' is subject to the collocation of several words namely demolish, damage, destroy, or defile. To understand the true notion of the term 'Defile' principle of Ejusdem Generis which means "of the same kind" should be taken into consideration The words demolish, damage, or destroy signify the physical act whereas the term 'defile' must be understood as something unclean or dirty. In the case of Sivakoti Swami[2], it was said that the word defile is not limited to those acts which make an object about worship unclean but also those activities committed which makes such ritually degraded. To put it another way, it is not cramped to the concept of "unclean" but also embrace the notion of "impure".

Section 295 under the Indian Penal Code comes into the picture when places regarding worship or object are destroyed, demolished, or damaged, Nowhere in the Indian Penal Code the expression 'place of worship' is explicated. However, section2(d) within the meaning of the Untouchability of Offence Act,1955 holds the term 'place of worship'. It states that A place which is primarily utilized to perform any religious service or utilize as a place of worship by the public or place which is devoted to being utilized by public declaring any religion and covers all the lands as well as subsidiary shrines. If the act of any people results in dismantling the places of worship(announced as a sacred via religion) with the intention of abusing the religion of another person then in such episode that person shall be penalized with rigorous imprisonment of either elucidation for a term which can be extended to two years or fine or in some cases with both.

The main purpose of section 295 under IPC is to acclaim the religious credence of every people of whatever religion in the case of SP Mittal V. Union of India[3], the term Religion was defined. It means (i) a system of optimism or principle which are considered by that person who proclaimed such religion as valuable to their spirituality. (ii) Religion is solely not an opinion, principle of faith. Religion also has its outward flows in all the actions. (iii) Religion need not be theological. (iv) The expression 'Religious denomination' implied a very religious or spiritual body subject to common trust and organization and appointed by idiosyncratic name.

According to section 297 of IPC if any person with the intention to hurt the feelings of any people or affront the religion of any other person or with the understanding that the sentiment of many people is expected to be damaged or with the comprehension that the religion of any people is doubtlessly to be inconvenience offended thereby, commits trespass in the places of worship or sculpture or any such place which is design to perform funeral acts or as a depository for the dead ones or award any mortification to the corpse of a human being or creates any inconvenience to any person congregated to perform the rituals about the funeral, shall be penalized with the rigorous imprisonment of either elucidation for a term which can be extended to one year or fine or with both. The term 'trespass' in section 297 of IPC implied not only criminal trespass but also the general act of trespass that is to say enter onto land or property of another person with no legitimate authority with the intention envisaged in section 441 of IPC.

Scandalizing the religious feelings (Section 295-A and Section 298)

Section 295-A states that whoever with the malafide intention of raging the religious sentiments of any person of India via words verbally or in written form or via demonstration or via representation or an attempt to abuse the religion of any person shall be penalized with imprisonment of either elucidation for a term which can be increased to 3 years or fine or with both. In the case of Khalil Ahamad[4], it was said that it is not mandatory to establish that the accused person bore ill will or animosity for any specific person. If the harmful act was performed voluntarily with no legitimate reason than in such a situation malice can be assumed.

Section 298 of IPC states that if any person with the intention to abuse the religious sentiments of another person performed the following acts shall be penalized with imprisonment of either elucidation for a term which can be expanded to 1 year or with a fine or with both.

(i) Utter any such word or produce any such sound in the hearing of that person.

(ii) Produce any such sign or gesture insight of that person.

In the case of Kamala Kant v. Chairman Benetta, Colman[5], it was said that if there exists any good faith/intention in demonstrating the words or opinion about religious sentiments that it would no amounts of offense.

Disturbance to religious assemblies (Section 296)

Section 296 of IPC deals with such inconvenience to religious assemblies it states that if any person voluntarily provides harm to the religious assemblies or ceremonies than that person shall be penalized with the imprisonment of either elucidation for a term which can be extended to 1 year or with fine or with both. According to a dictionary of Jowitt of English law, the term voluntarily means with no compulsion. In the case of Public Prosecutor v. Sunku Seethalah[6], it was said that it is not necessary that the accused must have an intention to damage religious worship. It suffices if they are well versed with the fact that they are probably to disturb it via music, they took the peril and caused inconvenience.


It cannot be denied that India is a secular country or a multicultural country. Every person is equally entitled to freedom of Religion envisaged in the constitution of India. No person has a right to abuse the religious belief of any person and sacred object. If any person commits such a crime with the malafide intention then the Indian Penal Code comes into the picture.





Foot notes: [1] (1978) 19 Cri LJ 960 [2] (1885) 1 Weir 253 [3] AIR 1983 SC 1: (1983) 1 SCC 51 [4] AIR 1960 ALL 715 (SB) [5] (1988) 1 Crimes 106 (110) [6] 11 CrLJ 400