What is blasphemy law?

Sacrilege: violation or misuse of what is regarded as sacred.
Blasphemy Law
: Deals with the matter pertaining to lack of respect toward God, religion, a religious icon, or something else considered sacred.

Arguements for blasphemy law

  • To value and respect for sanctity of the God, Religion and Religious belief.
  • Religion affects the actions of human beings. Legal protection provided by state to protect religious belief and sentiments leads to stable society and governance.
  • Most of the countries implement Blasphemy laws as a reasonable restriction for the maintenance of communal harmony.
  • Blasphemy law is required by the states that have an official religion like Pakistan

Argument against blasphemy law

  • Blasphemy has been described as irreverence towards God or Religion, however the term “Religion‟ itself lacks a proper definition for itself.
  • Against the spirit of Fundamental right of Speech and Expressions. USA has no blasphemy law to protect freedom of speech and expressions.
  • Blasphemy laws are incompatible with the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • Blasphemy law is often be used as a tool for the majority to oppress the minority.

The allegations of blasphemy have been used by vigilante groups and non-state actors to justify and instigate incidents of interreligious violence.

Judgments

Ramji Lal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh

  • The case challenged the constitutional validity of law.
  • Case argues that Art. 19(2) only put reasonable restrictions but section 295 A casts its net much wider by criminalizing all speech that was intended to outrage religious feeling.
  • A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 295 A
  • Supreme court observed that section 295A did not cover all type of Insult but only intentional insults

The Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh v Ram Manohar Lohia

  • Under this case supreme court observes that speech which is prohibited should have a direct connection to disrupt public order and it should not be just a remote connection
  • This is contrary to previous judgment (Ram ji Lal Modi case) which gave the order that a slight connection of freedom of speech with public disorder fall under Section 295 A.
  • New Punjab law

    • Under new proposed law any “injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people” a crime punishable with life imprisonment

    Need for Law

    • Several incidents took place in various part of Punjab related to sacrilege of Holy book of Sikhs.
    • Existing provisions of the said Act in Section 295, 295A and 296 though deal with these matters but do not provide deterrent punishment for incidents

    Issues with the law

    • Protecting Holy book of one religion is anti-secular and discriminatory against other religion.
    • Most importantly, section 295-A of IPC deals with religion and religious beliefs, punishment under section 295-AA explicitly for religious text would be disproportionate
  • Misuse of law in the guise of protecting religion sentiments may inflict violence.

 

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