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Offences Relating To Religion

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In a secular and diverse nation like India, religion is of utmost importance. Since the country is diverse there are several religious groups/sects, who have different views, opinions, beliefs and values. These values can clash with those of the other religion from time to time and thus to co-exist peacefully the constitution as well as the Indian Penal Code has come out with certain rights and provisions to prevent this from happening for a peaceful co-existence between the diverse people of this nation. Article 25 of the Indian constitution adheres the right to freely practice, propagate and promote their religion, to religious groups and to the people of this nation.

Thus, while the Constitution of India grants certain rights to its citizens, the Indian Penal Code covers the offenses relating to religion. Defilement of places of worship or objects of veneration, outraging or injuring religious sentiments of individuals, and disrupting religious gatherings are the three general types. This is covered under section 295 to 298 of the Indian Penal Code 1860.


Section 295 of Indian Penal Code- Injuring or defiling a place of worship, with the intention of insulting the particular religion or that class

Whoever destroys, harms, or defiles any site/place of worship or any entity considered sacred by any class of people with the intention of offending their religion, or with the understanding that such destruction, harm, or defilement will be considered as a disrespect to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of any description for a period which can be extended to two years, or with a fine, or both.


Section 295 of the Penal code generally states that, if a person commits an act that resulted in the defamation and degradation of any worship place or object that is considered holy by any faith, with the express intent of offending that religion, that person will be found responsible under Section 295 and will face incarceration, a fine, or both. As seen in the definition above there are several elements that has to be taken into consideration before an offence is committed under section 295 of the Penal Code. Elements such as the intent, Knowledge, damage, destruction and defamation of the places of worship needs to be considered before any decision is given.

Disturbing Religious Assemblies

Section 296 of the Indian Penal Code States that any person who voluntarily creates a disruption to any assembly lawfully engaging in religious worship or religious rituals shall be disciplined with either incarceration of any kind for a period up to one year, or a fine, or both.


  • A legal gathering for the purpose of performing religious worship or ceremony.
  • It should be legal to hold such a gathering and ceremony.
  • An accused may cause some kind of commotion.
  • The accused’s actions must be voluntary/intentional.

Assembly worship is given special cover under this section. It should not apply to personal worship. If it interferes with the public’s normal use of the streets, a religious gathering is considered legal.

Illustration-Thus if A has disrupted the death ceremony of B’s mother and has caused a commotion, resulting in B getting defamed and falsely accused for his mother’s death, then in this situation section 296 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, would be held applicable.


Section 297 of Indian Penal Code

Section 297 of the Code states that whoever, having an intention of wounding the religious feelings/sentiments of any person/religious group, or of offending the religion/religious beliefs of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be damaged, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted/harmed , commits any trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sculpture, or any place set apart from the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

The act of trespass should have been performed at either of the locations mentioned in the section, or humiliation to a human dead body must have been given, or disruption to people gathered for religious services must have been caused according to the section. This must be achieved with necessary “mens rea” which may take the form of either intention or information as mentioned. Even though the entry was with the consent of the owner of the place, digging up the graves therein is punished under this clause.

Section 298 Of the Indian Penal Code 1860

Whoever, with the intention to hurt a person’s religious sentiments, interjects any word/term or makes any sound in his or her hearing, or makes any gesture in his or her eyes, or positions, any substance in his or her sight, shall be punishable with imprisonment of any description for a period that may last to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Illustration- A can be charged under section 298 of the Penal Code, when he chose to intentionally defame a religious leader and their entire sect in his rally.


Intention or Knowledge

It is a necessary component for someone to be held responsible under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. It is critical that the individual intends to desecrate, harm, or defile a place of worship or an object (declared as a holy object by any religion).

An individual can’t be held accountable under Section 295 if there is no malafide intention to injure religious sentiments. Under these Sections, simple desecration of a place of worship is not considered objectionable. The details and conditions of the situation are used to determine whether or not there was an attempt to offend.

This can be explained through the case of Jan Mohammed v. Narain Das[1] The defendant collected some debris and old construction materials from a mosque that was in bad shape and had fallen out of service. Under the code, the perpetrator was found not guilty because he had no intent of offending the Mohammedan religion or any of its adherents.

He really has no idea that his acts could offend or harm people from all walks of life. A case where the religious sentiments were harmed can be seen in the matter of Soban Ram v. Crown,[2] where the accused parties had undertaken in sexual intercourse inside the mosque, which was viewed as damaging the religious sentiments of the holy structure.

Destruction, Damage or Defilement

These terms can be interpreted as causing the religious property to become filthy, unclean, or foul. It doesn’t only imply tangible damage to the land, but also something that will have an effect on the place’s pure state. The term “defilement” encompasses not only physical damage, but also cases in which a place of worship or sacred object of worship is ritually or impurely covered.

This can be observed in the case of Atmaran v. King Emperor,[3] where it was stated that the presence of a person of a lower caste, in a temple where only people of a higher caste are permitted is not considered as a violation of this section and as a damage to the religious belief or structure.

Place or Object to be Sacred

The loss of a place of worship or sacred place is a requirement of this Section. Temples, churches, mosques, synagogues, and kyaungs are all called sacred sites because they are places of worship. A shack was being used as a place of worship for citizens of a particular religion in the case of Joseph v. State of Kerala.[4]

By a judicial order, the accused took custody of the Hindu Gods’ images and was convicted under Section 295. The man had the right to do whatever he wanted, and he had not tried to damage religious convictions or sacred objects, according to the High Court, so he was found not guilty.

Trespass into Place of Worship

Trespassing into a house of worship or a place of burial is illegal under Section 297. This means that the trespass would not have to be falling under criminal trespass to fall under Section 297’s jurisdiction. The term ‘trespass’ has been used in this section to describe an unjustified intrusion into someone else’s house. The performers would be held responsible under this provision if they engaged in sexual activity in a place of worship.[5]

Indignity to Human corpse (body) and Disturbing and defaming Funeral Rites

Section 297 makes it illegal to show disrespect to a human body by interfering with the execution of burial rites. Any kind of active interference into the funeral ceremonies is referred to as a “disturbance.” The plaintiff’s mother died in the case of Basir-ul-Huq v. State of West Bengal.[6]

He and others assisted in transporting the remains to the crematoriums. Meanwhile, the defendant filed a police report alleging that the appellant had strangled his mother resulting in her death. Afterwards, he went to the crematoriums with police and disrupted the rituals. However, it was discovered that the applicant’s mother died of natural causes.

As a result, the complainant lodged a Section 297 suit against the defendant. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to three months of imprisonment.


Section 295 A and section 298 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, talks about such acts that wound the religious feelings or sentiments of the people. Section 295A deals with activities that are “deliberate and harmful” in that they are meant to offend religious sentiments or insult religious views or faith of a certain group of people, while Section 298 makes unlawful such “deliberate” acts of verbal or visible expression that are meant to damage another’s religious sentiments.

The distinction between the two parts can be seen in the way they are written. Section 295A refers to a “deliberate and malicious plan” to offend a “division of Indian citizens’ religious feelings. Any utterances or expressions made with the malicious intention of harming a person’s religious sentiments are illegal under Section 298.

When compared, the term outraging is far louder than the word “wounding,” implying that the Section 295A offense is more severe than the Section 298 offense. As a consequence, the penalty under Section 295A is basic or stringent imprisonment for up to 3 years, while the punishment under Section 298 is any form of imprisonment for up to a year, or a fine, or both.


Right to freely practice and propagate one’s religion is a right which has to be protected at all costs in a secular and diverse nation that we live in. To maintain a peaceful environment along with the different religious sects, requires a lot of mutual respect of each other’s values and beliefs. Section 295 to 298 of the Indian Penal Code safeguards the same from being disrupted and protects the valuable fundamental rights of the citizens.

  1. Jan Mohammed v. Narain Das (1883) All WN 39
  2. Soban Ram v. Crown, 67 IC 686,
  3. Atmaran v. King Emperor, AIR 1924 Nag 121
  4. Joseph v. State of Kerala AIR 1961 Ker 28
  5. Soban Ram v. Crown, 67 IC 686
  6. Basir-ul-Huq v. State of West Bengal 1953 AIR 293


Section 295 of Indian Penal Code 1860

Section 295 A of Indian Penal Code 1860

Section 296 of Indian Penal Code1860

Section 297 of Indian Penal Code 1860