The Karnataka High Court, in the case of Precilla D’Souza vs State of Karnataka, observed that while professing any religion, the religious heads or any other people should not degrade other religions. The court refused to quash a criminal complaint alleging degradation of religion by the accused.
By: Kriti Dubey, Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College
The question of religious tolerance and intolerance depends on the encounter between the different religions that co-exist in the same land. India, for centuries, has lived in a religiously pluralistic society. The admirable quality of the country is even if eighty percent of its population is Hindu; constitutionally India remains a democratic sovereign republic where all religions are of equal status.
In the present case, a woman alleged that petitioners came to her residence and told her that they wanted to give information about a website. In the beginning, they stated that they came to educate children through videos and there were messages of the Bible.
The petitioners gave a pamphlet to the woman and when she enquired why there is no information about Quran and Bhagavad-Gita, the petitioners answered the question that only the Bible gives information about the future, not any other religion.
It is the Bible that foretold that there is a tsunami coming. The government can only give information but, the Yesu Christ can give protection. It was also added that if one believes in the Bible, then the kind of peace of mind that is provided will never be given by any other religious texts. The complainant questioned whether they have come for religious belief or whether they have come for conversion.
Based on the complaint, the police have registered the case against the petitioners for the offenses punishable under section 298 read with section 34 of IPC. The petitioners approached the High Court seeking to quash the order taking cognizance of the complainant.
The petitioners contended that the same violates Articles 14, 21, and 25 of the constitution of India.
The learned counsel opined that if somebody wants to practice or propagate any particular religion, he cannot be attacked by people belonging to a different religion. The person is entitled to every possible protection that can be provided by the police. The police cannot abdicate their responsibility of protecting the individuals who are exercising the rights guaranteed under article 25 of the constitution of India.
The protection guaranteed under article 25 is not confined to just the matters of doctrine but extends to acts done in exercise of the rights to profess, practice and propagate any religion freely.
While considering the petition, the court noted that there are specific allegations against the accused that they have degraded the other religion. It was rightly pointed out by the learned counsel of the complainant that no fundamental rights are given to any religion to demean other religions.
In the case on hand, after having perused the complainant’s averments and also the statement of the witnesses, the High Court made it clear that the act of the petitioners attracts section 295(a) of IPC regarding deliberate and malicious acts.
There was a clear intent to outrage the religious feelings of any class by instituting its religion or religious beliefs.
The investigation officer after investigating the matter invoked section 298 of IPC which contained uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.
The High Court dismissed the petition and added that the contentions made by petitioners counsel that the charges leveled against the petitioners do not attract section 298 of IPC and that it would violate articles 14,21 and 25 of the constitution of India cannot be accepted.