Read Order: Alison Gomes vs. State of Goa & Ors

LE Staff

Mumbai, August 12, 2021: The Bombay High Court (Goa Bench) has ruled that insult of religion offered unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of a particular class do not come within the scope of Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code.

A Division Bench of Justice Sunil P. Deshmukh and Justice M.S. Sonak observed that Section 295-A (dealing with deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of IPC only punishes aggravated form of insult to religion when it is perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class. 

The Bench said that unless the FIR or complaint discloses the commission of a cognizable offense and not only a non-cognizable offense, the police authorities get no jurisdiction to register FIR or to undertake investigations without the order of a Magistrate as is contemplated u/s 155(2) of the Code. 

The High Court made the observations while quashing an FIR against a musician alleging that the lyrics of his song had outraged religious sentiments. The FIR was registered on a complaint of a Member of the Goa Legislative Assembly alleging commission of offences punishable u/s 295-A and Section 500 of IPC. 

It was claimed that a song by the petitioner floated on YouTube, deliberately and maliciously hurt and outraged the religious feelings of the Christian community, apart from being false and defamatory in nature. 

After going through the contentions and precedents, the High Court observed that the allegations do not disclose the commission of a cognizable offense u/s 295-A of IPC and therefore, permitting the police authorities to investigate further would amount to an abuse of the criminal process.

Justice Sonak observed that in Ramji Lal Modi vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court has made it clear that Section 295-A of IPC is not attracted in case of every act of insult or attempt to insult the religion or religious beliefs of a class of citizens but this Section only penalizes those acts of insults to or to those varieties of attempts to insult the religions or religious beliefs of a class of religions which are perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class. 

“This is a matter where the complainant has attempted to rely on a particular passage or rather, refer to a sentence here and a sentence there to allege that the Petitioner has committed an offense punishable u/s 295-A of IPC,” opined the HC Bench. 

Settled principles which apply in the context of an offense u/s 295-A of IPC have been completely ignored by the police authorities at the time of registering the impugned FIR against the Petitioner, added Justice Sonak. 

The High Court therefore quashed the FIR/complaint in exercise of the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution and Section 482 of CrPC, opining that even if all the allegations in the FIR/complaint are taken at their face value, they do not disclose the commission of a cognizable offense.

However, the Court accepted the complaint at least prima facie discloses the ingredients of the offense punishable u/s 500 (Punishment for defamation) of IPC.

Therefore, though the FIR/complaint were quashed, the High Court made it clear it will be open to the Respondent to take out appropriate proceedings in the context of his allegations against the Petitioner involving the offense punishable u/s 500 of IPC.

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