A Case of Apparent Religious Dissidence written by Surya Sunilkumar student of Ramaiah institute of legal studies
Pradeep RS & Ors. Vs State of Kerala and Anr.
India has a long history of religious conflicts and intolerance towards certain acts which they presume to be offensive for a religion. It is also true that many people from the same communities have a different take on the same subject. Some might be orthodox and others might be liberal. In Pradeep Rs & Ors. Vs State of Kerala and Anr. similar instances created wherein the Kerala High court ordered that merely inciting the feelings of a community or group cannot attract Sec 153A of Indian Penal Code,1860 in its application for anticipatory bail by the petitioner.
Facts of the case
The accused in the case along with the petitioner concocted a conspiracy to demolish a film set constructed at Periyar riverside in Kalady depicting a church that was being constructed near Kalady Mahadev temple, and formed an unlawful assembly committing riots with deadly weapons. They also broke into the structure and committed theft from inside the structure and mischief by demolishing it, causing a loss to the producers of 80 lakhs and they also damaged the walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple causing a loss to the management of the temple of Rs. 25,000 thereby possible promotion of enmity, ill-will, and hatred between the groups on the ground of religion.
Offenses filed in the original petition
The accused was arrested under the following Sections of Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Sec.120B- Punishment of criminal conspiracy
- Sec.143- Punishment for forming Unlawful assembly
- Sec.144- Joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapons
- Sec,147- Punishment for Rioting
- Sec.148- Rioting armed with deadly weapons
- Sec.153A- Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
- Sec.454-Lurking house-trespass or house-breaking in order to commit an offense punishable with imprisonment.
- Sec.380- Theft in a dwelling house
- Sec.427- Mischief causing damage to the amount of 50 rupees, read with Sec 149 stating every member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offense committed in prosecution of common object
Hon’ble Justice Ashok Menon passed an order regarding the case after making the following observations:
• Sec. 153A was not maintainable, as it maintains a case which was “a person by words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation promotes or attempts to promote such feelings”. In this case, merely inciting the feelings of one community or group without any reference to any other community or group cannot attract the offense. This conclusion was based on Bilal Ahmed Kaloo Vs State of A.P 1997. It also stated that it is essential that two groups or communities should be involved, as in the proceeding it was found that only one community had a problem regarding the construction of the structure. The order stated that there was no prima facie thus the offense punishable under Sec. 153A is not attracted to the facts of the case.
• The court gave a clearer definition regarding Sec.442 of IPC. As the definition stated that since a temporary structure was used as custody of property the offense of house-trespass can also be included as the section includes even a tent and does not state whether the structure should be permanent or temporary.
• The Hon’ble court passed the application for anticipatory bail as the applicants did not have any criminal antecedents. The other accused were considered as suspects thus arrested for the aforementioned offenses.
i. This case has bestowed with a perspicuous meaning for what Sec.153A should confer to. It narrowed down the scope of this section thus providing a better application of it in a case.
ii. The order stated that there should be inducement of the enemy between two groups and community, here there was no such instance that established this fact. In this case, there was a conflict between the people who were working for the film and the Anthrashta Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Bajrang Dal. There was no involvement of the second community, as the Christian community was fine with the demolition of the structure as it was temporarily built for the purpose of a movie.
iii. Other accused were arrested as they have several criminal antecedents. It should be observed that the accused in this case have very less religious tolerance as their motive was to create a ruckus on the sets of the film in the name of religion.
iv. The court is yet to decide on the original petition filed.
It is necessary in India to understand the scope of Sec.153A and this case has unambiguously interpreted the meaning. This case can be used as a precedent to such an interpretation.