Sacrilege and Lynching

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    In News

    • Recently, after lynching at Golden Temple, youth was killed in Punjab’s Kapurthala over ‘sacrilege attempt’ (disrespect the holiest book).

    Sacrilege

    • About
      • This is not the first time someone has been killed over accusations of sacrilege of a holy book linked to Sikhism. Several such lynchings have taken place in the recent past.
      • For some years now, Punjab has topped the country in the number of sacrilege cases. 
      • Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that from 2018 to 2020, Punjab’s rate of crimes (number of cases divided by population in lakhs) registered under Sections 295 to 297 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deal with sacrilege, was the highest. 
    • Be-adbi in Sikhism:
      • The concept of beadbi or sacrilege in Sikhism emanates largely from the fact that Sikhs consider the Guru Granth Sahib to be a living Guru
      • This is how it was ordained by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru Granth Sahib and everything associated with it is sacred. Since the Guru is considered to be a living being, any harm or disrespect to it is a serious offence for the Sikhs.
      • Apart from the Guru Granth Sahib, the ‘gurdwara’, which literally means the abode of the guru, and the articles used in the service of the Guru, are sacred. 
      • The ‘dastaar’ or the ‘pagri’, the headgear worn by Sikhs, is also considered sacred, as is the ‘kirpan‘, the sword that baptised Sikhs carry. 
    • Acts of Be-adbi:
      • Disrespect to the Sikh Gurus, even when it happened in the time of the Mughals, was beadbi.
      • Operation Blue Star, in which the Army entered the Golden Temple or Darbaar Sahib in Amritsar, the holiest of Sikh shrines, in 1984.

    What are the Legal Provisions dealing with Blasphemy? 

    • Sections 295 and 295A of the IPC: 
      • Involves imprisonment in the case, which involves destruction, damage to or defiling of a “place of worship”, or “any object held sacred”.
      • It is a cognizable offence, which means that the police are authorised to arrest accused persons without the need of a judicially sanctioned warrant. This law was added only in 1927.
      • It is often argued that Section 295A is not a section for blasphemy but a section against Hate Speech.
    • Other Acts of IPC: 
      • Sections 124A, 153A, 153B, 292, and 293 of IPC also related to blasphemy
      • These sections prohibit any words or representations that insult any individual’s or group’s religious beliefs, or that are meant to incite enmity against a particular religion.
    • Constitutional Rights:
      • The word secular in the preamble of the Constitution, making it very clear that India is a secular country and is not biased towards any particular religion.
      • If the state abridged an Indian of his right to religion then he may move to the apex court under article 32.

    Issue of Lynching 

    • Law: 
      • There is no present codified law against lynching in India as such, however, Sub Section (a) of Section 223 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 contains the provision for persons being charged for an offense jointly when they are accused of the same offence committed in the course of the same transaction which is applicable on two or more people.
    • Attacks by: 
      • Lynching related attacks mostly include attacks by vigilantes, murder and attempt to murder, harassment, assault, gang-rape etc. 
      • The victims are often brutally beaten, chained, stripped and hanged causing grievous injuries or death.
    • Punishment: 
      • Section 302 of Indian Penal Code:
        • This section of IPC deals with punishments related to murder i.e. the person who commits murder is punished either with a punishment of death or imprisonment for life. 
        • In many cases, the convict may even be liable to penalisation.
      • Section 304 of Indian Penal Code:  
        • This section deals with punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder which may be
      • Life imprisonment for life:
        • Imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine in case the act is done with an intention to kill or cause injury that is likely to cause death.
        • Imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death or the injury that is likely to cause death, but without any intention.
      • Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code:
        • This section deals with the punishment in case of attempt to murder. 
        • A person who does an act with an intention or knowledge that his action may cause death would   be guilty of murder and is to be punished with imprisonment of either for a term of   up to ten years and also be liable to fine.
      • Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code:
        • This section defines the punishment for causing hurt voluntarily. 
        • Whoever, except if provoked as per section 334, voluntarily causes hurt, is bound to be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine (up to one thousand rupees), or with both.
      • Section 325 of the Indian Penal Code:
        • This section deals with punishment for causing grievous hurt voluntarily. 
        • Under the provision of this section, if a person, except in case of provocation (as provided for by section 335), voluntarily causes grievous hurt, is likely to be punished with imprisonment of either for a term of up to seven years and also payment of fine.
      • Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code:
        • This section highlights the punishment for Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. 
        • When a criminal act is done by several persons in regard to a  common intention, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.
      • Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code:
        • This section mentions the punishment for parties participating in a criminal conspiracy. 
        • In case the Conspiracy is done for an offence which is punishable with death or life imprisonment or with imprisonment for 2 years or more, the offender is to be punished in the same manner as in case of abetment of the offense.
        • In case of conspiracy for an offense that is not punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for 2 years or above, the offender is liable to be punished with imprisonment for up to six months, or with fine or both.
      • Section 143 of the Indian Penal Code:
        • Section 141 defines ‘unlawful assembly’ as an assembly of 5 or more people in order to use/show criminal force or to resist the execution of law or criminal trespass etc. which is punishable under Section 143 of the code with imprisonment for up to 6 months, or with fine, or both.
      • Section 147 of the Indian Penal Code
        • Section 146 of the code defines ‘rioting’ as an offense where an unlawful assembly or a member uses force or violence in the prosecution of a common object of the assembly. 
        • Section 147 of the code identifies every member of such an assembly guilty of the offense of rioting and is awarded imprisonment for up to 2 years, or with fine, or both. In case of rioting involving deadly weapons the punishment prescribed is for imprisonment for up to 3 years, or with fine, or both.   
      • Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code-
        • This section identifies every member of an unlawful assembly to be guilty of an offence commit­ted in the prosecution of a common object if the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object.

    Image Courtesy: IE 

    SC guidelines

    • There should be a “separate offence” for lynching and the trial courts must ordinarily award maximum sentence upon conviction of the accused person to set a stern example in cases of mob violence.
    • The state governments will have to designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
    • The state governments need to identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
    • The nodal officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP about any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues.
    • Every police officer shall ensure to disperse the mob that has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.

    Conclusion

    • For framing the laws, the Centre could even provide for punitive action against political leaders found guilty of inciting mobs.
    • Zero- tolerance attitude should be adopted in dealing with mob lynching as the cases of these are on the rising trend.

    Source: IE