The Supreme Court recently dismissed a writ petition by journalist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashish Khetan, challenging the constitutionality of Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises ‘insult of religion’.
Khetan was booked under the said provision for allegedly announcing that the party manifesto was as "sacred" as the 'Shri Guru Granth Sahib', the religious scripture of Sikhs.
He had directly approached the Supreme Court, contending that the said provision is ultra vires Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Bench comprising Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, referring to a decision by the constitution bench in Ramji Lal Modi vs. State of U.P. [AIR 1957 SC 620], wherein the constitutional validity of Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code was upheld, observed that the said controversy having been put to rest by the Constitution bench does not deserve to be reopened for the purpose of referring to a larger Bench.
In Ramji Lal Modi case, the constitution bench, while upholding the validity of Section 295A IPC, had observed: “Insults to religion offered unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of that class do not come within the section. 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.”
The court, however, granted liberty to Khetan to challenge the lodging of FIR before the high court.
Read the order here.