Introduction :

    Chapter XV of the Indian Penal Code 1860 deals with offences relating to religion. There are five Sections in this chapter Section 295, 295A, 296, 297 and 298.


Offenses prescribed under chapter XV of the Indian Penal Code 1860 can be classified into :

(i) Damaging or defiling a place of worship or sacred object with intend to insult the religion of a class of persons (Section 295)

(ii) Trespassing in any place of sepulture or where funeral ceremonies are performed (Section 297 I.P.C)

(iii) Disturbing religious assembly (Section 296 I.P.C)


(iv) Outraging or wounding the religion

 (Must Read... What is religion under the constitution of India )

1) Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class (Section 295) 

     Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Ingredients 

          To convict a person under section 295 of the Indian Penal Code, following ingredients must exist :
 
(i) The accused must do such an act with intention of insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that any class of person is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion.
 
(ii) accused must destroy, damage or defile any place of worship or any object which is called as sacred by any class of person.

   Mere defilement of a place or worship is not an offence under section 295 without the requisite mens rea. The essence of offence is mens rea, in addition to  which there must be an act of destruction , damage or defilement  of place of worship. The common examples of places of worship are Temples, Churches, Gurudwaras, Mosques, Vihar etc


 2) Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs (Section 295A) :

     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.



Ingredients :

To invoke Section 295A of the Indian Penal code, following ingredients must exist -

(i) The accused must insult or make an attempt to insult the religion or religious beliefs of any class of persons.

(ii) Insult must be with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious beliefs of any class of citizens of India.

(iii) The said insult must be by words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise.


Distinction between Section 295 and section 295A of the Indian penal code

          Both Sections, Section 295 and section 295Adeals with the offence of insulting religious feelings of any class of persons. But under Section 295 offence is committed by a certain act such as destruction damage to any place of worship or any object held sacred. On the other hand under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code the offence is committed by words spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation.


3) Disturbing religious assembly (Section 296)

  Whoever voluntarily causes disturbance to any assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship, or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Ingredients : 

 (i) There must be a voluntarily disturbance caused;

(ii) The disturbance must be caused to an assembly engaged in religious worship; 

(iii) The assembly must be lawfully engaged in such worship, ceremonies.
 

4) Trespassing on burial places, etc (Section 297)

    Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sepulture, or any place set apart for 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.


Ingredients : 

    To convict person under Section 297 of the Indian Penal code, following ingredients must be proved -

(i) The accused committed the act with intention of wounding the feelings or insulting the religion of any person or with the knowledge that the feelings or religion of any person were likely to be wounded.

(ii) The accused committed Trespass, or offered any indignity to a human corpse, or caused disturbance to the person or persons assembled for funeral ceremonies.
 

(iii) The place trespassed was either ; a place or worship or a place of sculpture or a place set apart for the performance of funeral rites, or a place set apart as a depositor for the remains of the dead body.

 
5) Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings (Section 298)

  Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

To hold person liable under Section 298 of  the Indian Penal Code the following ingredients must be present

i)  The accused uttered any word or made any sound in the hearing of, or made any gesture in the presence of that person or placed an object in the sight of the person;

ii) The accused did so intentionally and deliberately ; and

iii)  His intention was to wound the religious feelings of any other persons.



See also 

1) What is religion under the constitution of India ?

2) Religious freedom under the Constitution of India (Article 25 to 28 ).

3) Wrongful restraint under the Indian Penal Code

4) Difference between Rash and Negligence act

5) Rights of Minorities to establish and manage educational institutions under the Constitution of India

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