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The Supreme Court has intervened to spare cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni the ordeal of facing a criminal trial for allegedly insulting the Hindu religion by being featured in the likeness of a deity on the cover of a business magazine. The court quashed a criminal complaint filed against him in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, a provision that makes “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings” a punishable offence. The court said there was no deliberate intent on the part of the cricketer or the magazine to hurt religious sentiments. It drew upon the interpretation given to Section 295A by a Constitution Bench as early as in 1957 that it 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”. It is a matter of satisfaction that the highest court intervenes from time to time to stymie attempts by those claiming that their religious sentiments are offended by some act or remark of celebrities and dragging them to courts in different parts of the country. Judicial relief does come in the end, but the bitter truth is that the process is the punishment; it is time our lower courts stop taking reflexive cognisance of trivial or vexatious cases filed on the basis that the religious, caste or cultural sensitivities of some group have been offended.
In essence, Section 295A is a thinly disguised blasphemy law — the only difference being that it is ‘secular’ insofar as it applies to all religions or all forms of religious insult. A close cousin of this provision is another much misused section of the IPC — 153A. Intended to punish those who promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence and language, and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony, this section has been employed to harass writers and artists and cast a chill on free expression. The problem with insult laws, irrespective of the form they assume, is that they are inherently subjective. There is no guessing what causes insult/offence/hurt to people, leaving it open for such provisions to be blatantly misused. In this respect, Section 295A and 153A resemble our controversial contempt of court law — there is no saying what will scandalise a judge and therefore no saying when and for what contempt may be invoked. The two IPC provisions encourage the creation of what novelist Monica Ali described as a “marketplace of outrage” — an economy that feeds on anger and hostility. They need to be read down, their scope narrowed in a way that moral vigilantes and those who affect an emotional victimhood can no longer exploit the law to serve their narrow chauvinistic ends.
Magical Vocabulary from “The Hindu Editorial”
- Intervened (verb) हस्तक्षेप किया – come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.
Synonyms: intercede, involve oneself, get involved, interpose oneself.
Example: he acted outside his authority when he intervened in the dispute
- Spare (adjective) अतिरिक्त – additional to what is required for ordinary use.
Synonyms: extra, surplus, free, trim, scanty, plain, supernumerary
Example: Can you spare us a minute?
- Deity (noun) देवता – a god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion).
Synonyms: god, goddess, divine being, supreme being, divinity.
Example: a deity of ancient Greece
- Deliberate ( adjective) जानबूझकर – done consciously and intentionally.
Synonyms: intentional, careful, methodical, calculated
Example: Genocide is the deliberate and preplanned attempt to wipe out a particular race of people.
- Malicious (adjective) दुर्भावनापूर्ण– characterized by malice; intending or intended to do harm.
Synonyms: spiteful, malevolent, evil-intentioned, vindictive, vengeful, malign.
Example: Every teacher ran the risk of being set up by malicious pupils, Mr Jackson said.
- Outrage (noun) अत्याचार – an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation.
Synonyms: indignation, scandal, atrocity, scandalization
Example: Their deaths sparked outrage and anger in the city and far beyond.
- Perpetrated (verb) षड्यंत्रित – carry out or commit (a harmful, illegal, or immoral action).
Synonyms: commit, carry out, perform, execute, do, effect, bring about.
Example: a crime has been perpetrated against a sovereign state.
- Stymie (verb) गतिरोध – prevent or hinder the progress of.
Synonyms: obstruct, embarrass, stymy, blockade, block, hinder.
Example: The system is also stymied by a reporting loophole.
- Cognisance (verb) ध्यान में रखते/ संज्ञान – knowledge, awareness, or notice.
Synonyms: knowingness, awareness
Example: The smokers in the room were most appreciative of her cognisance of their plight!
- Vexatious (adjective) चिंतित – causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry.
Synonyms: nettlesome, teasing, pestiferous, vexing, pesky, plaguey, irritating.
Example: I question how vexatious accusations will be dealt with under this legislation.
- Insofar (adverb) अंदर से – to the extent that.
- Enmity (noun) दुश्मनी – the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
Synonyms: hostility, animosity, antagonism, friction, antipathy, animus
Example: Blood is shed everywhere and millions perish as victims of enmity.
- Blatantly (adverb) स्पष्ट रूप से – in an unsubtle and unashamed manner.
Example: To suggest that this newspaper put the story on the map is just blatantly wrong.
Courtesy And Official editorial link : – The Hindu
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