Chandigarh, November 13, 2023: As per media reports, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today has quashed the FIR against controversial dera Sirsa chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim for allegedly insulting religious sentiments under Section 295-A of the IPC.
According to the news published in The Tribune, Justice Kaul observed the only question for the court’s consideration was whether the discourse on an incident involving Sant Kabir Das and Guru Ravidas would fall within the purview of Section 295-A so as to term it blasphemous.
Justice Kaul’s Bench was told that the petitioner during a satsang on February 28, 2016, provided an “illustrative incident” involving Sant Kabir Das and Guru Ravidas, forming the core of the FIR registered on March 7 at Patara police station in Jalandhar district.
Justice Kaul asserted Section 295-A did not impose penalty for every act of insult. It only specifically penalised deliberate and aggravated acts of insult aimed at outraging religious feelings of the community. For bringing a charge under Section 295-A, it was required to be demonstrated that the insult was intentional, meant solely to insult someone and was driven by a malicious motive.
Justice Kaul added the court on careful scrutiny did not find evidence of any distortion or misrepresentation “within the incident relating to the life of Sant Kabir Das”. The narrative did not appear to insult the religious sentiments or beliefs of any specific group, as it was deeply rooted in the historical resources.
A mild criticism or some expression”that did not grossly offend the religious sensibilities of a community could not be criminalised. The provisions were intended to strike a balance between the freedom of speech and the protection of religious sentiments.