The offence under this section was made cognizable and the penalty for the offence committed in a place of worship was enhanced up to five years’ imprisonment. Clause (1) (c) was added to this section in the year 1972 by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1972 to extend the operation of this law to more areas.
The section penalises promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. Sub-section (1) (a) punishes promoting or attempting to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, by spoken or written words, or by signs or visible representations or otherwise. Subsection (1) (b) penalises anyone who commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or different castes or different communities, and which actually disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity. Sub-section (1) (c) punishes one who organises any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity with the intention that the participants in the same shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or with the knowledge that it was likely that they will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in the same with the intention to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or with the knowledge that it was likely that the participants in the same will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, and such activity causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, for any reason whatsoever. In each of the above mentioned cases one shall be punished with imprisonment extending up to three years, or with fine, or with both. Sub-section (2) emphasises that whenever an offence as stated above in sub-sections (1) (a), (1) (b) or (1) (c) is committed by anyone in any place of worship, or in any assembly which is engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies he shall be punished with the enhanced punishment in imprisonment extending up to five years and shall also be liable to fine.
The criminality under this section does not lie on the thing said or done but in the manner it has been said or done. It is not necessary to prove that enmity or hatred was in fact caused; it is enough that the language was calculate to promote the same. The matter, on the basis of which the charge under this section has been brought, must be read as a whole and not in piecemeal.
If the matter is in the form of a writing, it is relevant to know for whom was the writing meant to be written. It is no defence to say that the writing gave a truthful account of some event because the important thing is that the language and the way of presentation should be such as not to attempt to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will.
It may, however, be difficult to prove such a tendency with respect to a truthful presentation of some incident. The word ‘promotes’ means to contribute to the growth, to advance, to excite, to further, to advance, to urge, to forward or to incite. ‘Causing’ implies an effect but ‘presenting’ does not imply the same. Promotion may fail in its object. ‘Promotes’ or ‘attempts to promote’ are intended to mean a successful or unsuccessful promotion of the feelings mentioned in the section.
Constitutionality of the section
Whether section 153-A of the Code is constitutional or not was the main question in Tara Singh v. State, in which it was held that this provision violated the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19
(1) (a) of the Constitution and hence was unconstitutional. However, with the insertion of the expression ‘in the interest of public order’ in Article 19 (2) vide the Constitution (First Amendement) Act, 1951, the section is now perfectly constitutional, being a reasonable restriction on this freedom.
Where a book contained criticism of some facts of Hindu religion such as the prevalence of untouchability and bad treatment of backward classes and low caste people, the writer could not be held guilty of the offence under section 153-A or 295-A of the Code as the impression gathered from reading the book as a whole is important and not passages here and there and out of context. Therefore, the order forfeiting the book was held to be bad in law.
The Bombay High Court has held that where a writer is not loyal to history, it may be easier to prove that perhaps he was guided by other considerations, and his end might have been to promote enmity or disharmony. But the fact that a writer has adhered to history does not necessarily afford him defence if his publication has a tendency to spread hatred or ill-will.
But it seems that in a subsequent case the Bombay High Court has modified its view when it held that even though it is true that even true exposition of facts may sometimes make one liable under this section, it will be too broad a proposition. The Courts should be very careful while going through a historical presentation and it may be very difficult to hold that a true historical narration might also promote hatred or ill-will.
If such an argument is accepted, a day will come when the part of the history, which is unpalatable to a particular religion, will have to be kept in cold storage on the pretext that the publication of such history would constitute an offence under section 153-A of the Code.
The Supreme Court has held in Babu Rao Patel v. State, that one should not be permitted to write anything in the guise of historical truth or political thesis, and if the tendency of a writing is to promote enmity, hartred or ill-will between Hindus and Muslims, this section may punish the writer if all other ingredients of the offence under this section are present. The section is wide enough to include many other grounds besides the ground of religion.
A call to rebel against the capitalist system has been held to be not punishable under this section because the word ‘capitalist’ is too vague a phrase to denote a definite or ascertainable class.
In Chandanmal Chopra v. State, the petitioners moved a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution with the prayer that all copies of the Muslim holy book ‘Quran’ be forfeited under section 95, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as it advocates violence and destruction of idols etc. and also outrages the religious feelings of non-Muslims, because of which its publication amounts to an offence under sections 153-A and 295-A of the Code. Some isolated passages were quoted from it in support of the argument.
The Calcutta High Court rejected the petition and held that sections 153-A and 295-A of the Code could have no application. Quran is a holy text like the Bible, Gita, Ramayan and Mahabharat, and it has never caused any breach of peace and tranquillity till now and nor is there an apprehension of the same in future. The court went on to observe that forfeiture of these religious texts could be violative of Article 25 of Constitution by which freedom of conscience and religion have been granted to all.
In Joseph Bain D’souza v. State of Maharashtra, editorials appeared in Marathi newspaper ‘Samna’ immediately after the demolition of a disputed structure in Ayodhya, and violent riots broke out in Bombay. The editorials were in high flown and caustic language and were directed not against a particular community on the whole but against anti-national elements in them and also against the attitude of the army and the government. It was held that the articles would not fall within sections 153-A and 153-B of the Code.
In Bilal Ahmad Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court observed that making, publication or circulation of statement is necessary under section 505 of the Code but not under section 153-A. Merely inciting feelings of one group without any reference to another neither attracts section 153-A nor section 505 of the Code.
In Trustees, Shafdar Hashmi Memorial Trust v. Government of NCT of Delhi,1 the Delhi High Court observed that the object of section 153-A is to prevent breaches of public tranquillity which might result from excited feelings of enmity between classes of people. Absence of malicious intention is a relevant factor to judge whether the offence is committed. Mens rea has to be proved for proving commission of the offence.
The offence under this section is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by metropolitan magistrate or magistrate of the first class.
Section 153AA of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!
Legal Provisions of Section 153AA of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Punishment for knowingly carrying arms in any procession or organising, or holding or taking part in any mass drill or mass training with arms:
This section provides punishment for knowingly carrying arms in any procession or organising, or holding or taking part in any mass drill or mass training with arms. This section was inserted by section 44 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005 (Act 25 of 2005).
It says that whoever knowingly carries arms in any procession or organises or takes part in any mass drill or mass training with arms in any public place in violation of any public notice or order issued or made under section 144-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 shall be punished with imprisonment for a term extending up to six months and with fine extending up to two thousand rupees.
The explanation attached to this section says that the word ‘arms used in this section means articles of any description either designed or adopted as weapons for either offence or defence and includes firearms, sharp edged weapons, lathis, dandas and sticks.