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No religion has fundamental right to degrade other religions: Karnataka High Court rejects plea by 2 Christians accused of insulting Quran, Gita

Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court recently held that no fundamental right is conferred on any person espousing faith in a particular religion to degrade other religions (Precilla D'souza V. State Of Karnataka).

While professing a religion, the religious heads or religious discourse by any such person should not degrade other religion, Justice HP Sandesh said.

He, therefore, refused to quash a criminal complaint against two Christian persons for allegedly degrading other religions.

"No fundamental right is conferred on any religion to degrade the other religion....I have already pointed out that while professing any religion, the religious heads or professing by any person should not degrade other religion," the Court said.

The case was based on a complaint filed by a woman alleging that the accused persons had come to her residence and stated that "only Bible can tell the future and no other religious scripts give any information and tsunami is coming in the future."

They further said that only Jesus Christ can provide peace of mind and no other religion can.

A compliant was filed alleging that the accused degraded other religions by stating that neither Bhagavad Gita nor Quran will provide any peace of mind or come to the rescue of any person.

Based on the complaint, the police registered a case against the petitioners for the offence punishable under Section 295A (outraging religious feelings and insulting religion) read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code.

Thereafter, the police investigated the matter and filed the charge-sheet and while filing the charge-sheet they invoked the offence under Section 298 (uttering words to hurt religious feelings) read with Section 34 of IPC.

The magistrate took cognizance of the same by an order dated June 8, 2020.

The accused then approached the High Court seeking to quash the case.

The accused contended that the action of the State was violative of fundamental rights Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India. It was further submitted that the complaint was lodged after three and a half years of the incident.

On the other hand, the respondent contended that no application was filed under Section 473 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to condone the delay. Further, it was argued that no fundamental right is given to any religion to degrade other religions.

Various precedents were also cited by the both the parties to buttress their arguments.

The Court, after examining the rival contentions, noted that while there was no delay in lodging the complaint, there was an inordinate delay in filing the charge-sheet.

But the Court also considered the gravity of the charge, noting with approval the argument by the complainant that no fundamental right is given to any religion to degrade other religions

"It is rightly pointed out by the learned counsel for the complainant that no fundamental right is given to any religion to degrade other religions. In the case on hand, specific allegation against the petitioners is that they have degraded the other religion," the order said.

Hence, the Court ruled that petitioners' contention that charge-sheet was filed after considerable delay cannot be accepted when the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Sarah Mathew And Others V. Institute Of Cardio Vascular Diseases And Others has held that for the purpose of computing the period of limitation under Section 468 of Code of Criminal Procedure the relevant date is the date of filing of complaint.

The Court further said that when the allegation is that accused said that only Jesus can protect them and no other religion mentions anything about an impending Tsunami, then the offence of Section 298 could lie.

"Having perused the complaint averments and also the statements of the witnesses, it is specific that while propagating they specifically mentioned that other religious scripts does not say anything about anticipation of tsunami and only Yesu Christa can protect them. When such allegations are made in the complaint, the very contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners that the offences invoked against the petitioners does not attract the ingredients of Section 298 of IPC cannot be accepted."

The Court also did not find fault with the Investigating Officer invoking offence under Section 298 IPC after the probe.

"No doubt, while setting the law in motion invoked Section 295(A) of IPC regarding deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs and after the investigation, the Investigating Officer invoked Section 298 of IPC uttering, words, etc. with deliberate intention to wound the religious feelings of any person. Having taken note of the complaint averments and also the statement of witnesses, with deliberate intention to wound the religious feelings of other religion words are uttered while propogating. When such being the facts of the case, it attracts Section 298 of IPC. Hence, the contentions of the learned counsel for the petitioners that the charges levelled against the petitioners does not attract Section 298 of IPC and issue of process against the petitioners would vitiates Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India, cannot be accepted."

[Read Order]

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