Former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma has been summoned by the Maharashtra Police on June 22 following her recent controversial remarks against Prophet Mohammed that drew condemnation from several Islamic nations and opposition parties. The suspended leader becomes another known face to have been charged under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The All India Progressive Muslim Welfare Committee on Tuesday filed a complaint in Ambernath Police Station for registration of an FIR against Nupur Sharma over her controversial remarks during a TV debate nearly 10 days ago.
Several cases have been filed against Sharma across Mumbra, Pydhonie, and Thane. She has been charged under IPC sections 153A, 153 B, 295A, 298 and 505. The sections can be precisely summed up as 'promoting enmity, outraging religious feelings’, ‘uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person’, ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of a class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’, and other offences.
Here’s a look at the larger description of Section 295A and other known personalities who have been booked under similar charges.
What is Section 295A?
Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs are punishable under Section 295A. The law states, ‘Whoever, with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class (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.)’
Section 295A IPC is a cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence and police can register an FIR anywhere in the country at the instance of purportedly aggrieved complainants.
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Recent cases of Section 295A
A recent and the most controversial case traces back to the arrest of comedian Munawar Farooqi and his aides under Section 295A. On January 1, 2021, the comedian from Gujarat, was arrested by police along with four others on the complaint filed by Eklavya Singh Gaud, the son of BJP MP, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by making indecent remarks against Hindu deities at his comic show in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
On May 20, a Delhi University professor, Ratan Lal, was booked for an allegedly objectionable social media post on the claims of a ‘Shivling’ being found at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi. The history professor from the Hindu College was arrested under sections 153A and 295A by the Cyber Police Station, North.
An FIR was lodged in Uttar Pradesh against Mohammed Zubair, the editor-in-chief of fact-checking online news portal, Alt News, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by calling Mahant Bajrang Muni ‘Udasin’, Yati Narsinghanand and Swami Anand Swarup “hatemongers” on Twitter last week. Zubair has been booked under IPC section 295A and Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act by the Khairabad police in the Sitapur district.
Last week, an FIR was lodged in Punjab against Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon, filmmaker Farah Khan, comedian Bharti Singh, Screen Player, Writer Abbas Aziz Dalal & Frames Production for allegedly hurting religious sentiments during a web show titled as 'Backbenchers' released by Flipkart. Charges under Section 295A of the IPC have been pressed against them.
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Arbitrariness around the law
Legal experts have argued that section 295A of IPC is a controversial provision. They believe that there are good arguments, in law, for the court to revisit and consider overruling the Ramji Lal Modi decision.
The constitution bench judgement in Ramji Lal Modi v. State of UP stated, "Section 295A only punishes the 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 calculated tendency of this aggravated form of insult is clearly to disrupt the public order and the section, which penalises such activities, is well within the protection of clause (2) of Article 19 as being a law imposing reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a)."
The Supreme Court in Mahendra Singh Dhoni vs. Yerraguntla Shyamsunder and another reiterated the principle laid down in the Ramji Lal case and held that Section 295A penalizes only those acts or attempts to insult which are perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religious feelings of a class of citizens. Any insults which are made carelessly and unwittingly without any malicious intention are not covered under the act.