Was there violation of Sec 295A of IPC by the Band of Musicians?

The genealogy of Section 295A of Indian penal Code can be traced to the British era, when a book ‘Rangila Rasul’ was published and was protested by the minority community of undivided India. They alleged that few passages in it are against the founder of their faith. This paved a way to protests and demands for enactment of a law against injury to religious feelings, which was obliged by the British Government by inserting Section 295A in IPC.

Section 295A of the IPC reads as 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.

In the present matter (Sudheer Rikhari v. State of Goa) the facts are –

A band of musicians, ‘Dastaan Live’, were arrested by the Goa Police for hurting the religious sentiments of the complainant during their performance at the Serendipity Festival of Arts in Goa. An FIR was registered against themunder Section 295A of IPC, where the complainant alleged that the group had insulted Hindu religion by disrespectfully chanting the word “OM” along with the words like “Ullu ka Patta” in their song. On that basis, the petitioners were called at the Panaji Police Station asking them to issue an apology and also informed them about the FIR filed. Hence, they filed the present petition alleging the abuse of criminal process as the complaint did not clearly disclose any offence and requested the Court to quash the FIR filed against them.

While delivering the judgement the court held that the allegations in the complaint did not cover the ingredients of Section 295A of IPC and that the police were unjustified in calling the members for seeking an apology let alone arresting them. The Court criticized the respondents for hurriedly registering the FIR upon a vague complaint and abusing the criminal process by arresting some of the petitioners and forcing some to take anticipatory bail when they had been performing in other parts of the country without any hindrance. The court further asked the Police Authorities to be extra cautious in such matters, because over here the freedom of speech and expression, which is a right of every citizen under section 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, of the band members was at stake.

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