The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently held that a Samadh (memorial commemorating the dead) of a family member does not constitute a place of worship and destruction or defilement of the same would not amount to insulting religious sentiments [Krishna Devi And Others v/s Lal Chand & Another].
Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi opined that desecration of a Samadh would at best entail insult to the family member and cannot lead to invocation of Section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) of the Indian Penal Code against the accused.
“A Samadh of a family member cannot constitute a place of worship held sacred by a class of persons,” said the Court, adding, “By no stretch [of] imagination can it be held that a destruction, damage or defilement would amount to insult to the religion of an aggrieved person,” the Court said.
The Court made the observations while deciding a plea seeking quashing of a criminal complaint under various provisions of IPC and the summoning order passed against the petitioners by the magistrate.
The dispute in the case was between a brother and a sister engaged in an acrimonious legal battle over land measuring 40 Kanals and 8 marlas. The land was transferred to the sister by her father.
Amid the fight over land dispute, the brother also filed a criminal complaint against his sister and others in 2015 in relation to the Samadhs of a common ancestor.
The counsel representing the accused submitted that the complaint was filed by the brother with a mala fide intention after failing to prove any right over the land in dispute.
It was also submitted that even if the Samadh had been destroyed, no offence under Section 295 IPC would be made out.
After hearing the arguments, the Court noted that it was established beyond doubt in the civil proceedings that the petitioner side (accused in criminal complaint) was in possession of the land.
This fact was deliberately not disclosed in the complaint, the Court noted.
It added that had the fact been brought to the notice of the trial court, the possibility of summoning order being passed would have been unlikely.
It concluded that no offence under Sections 148 and 149 of IPC was made out. The provisions pertain to offences of rioting and unlawful assembly.
On Section 295 IPC too, the Court held that no offence was made out since a Samadh cannot be equated to a place of worship.
Considering the findings, Justice Bedi opined that the proceedings in the complaint were nothing but an abuse of legal process.
Therefore, the Court quashed the complaint, summoning order and the subsequent proceedings connected to it.
Senior Advocate Puneet Bali with Advocate Shivam Sharma represented the petitioners.
Advocate KR Dhawan represented the private respondent.
Deputy Advocate General Kirat Singh Sidhu represented the State.