History Repeats and History is Repeated

published on August 21, 2008

Old Judgments and  New thoughts in the present context: S. Veerabadran Chettiar vs E. V. Ramaswami Naicker & others.



: As historians used to claim that “history repeats and history is repeated”, the violation of provisions of Acts and Rules, litigation in the Courts, judgments delivered by the learned judges etc., also repeat. Now, there has been a lot of discussion went on and going on and would be continued in the Courts about the question of historicity of Rama[1], Rama-sethu, whether temple existed[2] and so on, as Indians note. However, when the issues are analyzed, it is found that they originate from Tamizhagam / Tamilnadu. So I decided to analyse the Supreme court Judgments in the present context, as they have many important facts recorded in them while discussing the issue in the court of law. The outcome of the case might have gone in favour of appellant or respondent, but the facts remain the facts. Legally, it could be argued that India became “secular”[3] only from 03-01-1977 and the therefore, the decisions before that date could not be brought under “secular” context. But, it could not be argued that India was “non-secular”, “communal” and so on before that date.

Why old and stale Judgments?

Today morning, when I was reading the judgment, I was provoked by many factors. In fact, the Judge himself calls this case- S. Veerabadran Chettiar vs E. V. Ramawami Naicker – as “becoming stale”, but I do not think legal cases can become stale when humanity continues live and progress. Interestingly, I find a lot of similarities, coincidences and other events very analogous to this case are found now with activities and proceedings going on in and around us and definitely affecting our thinking processes. Thus, the consequences and such recurring events have not been stale to us and we cannot keep quiet. I am not neither an advocate nor law-knowing person, but attempting to know, understand and learn. Therefore, if I commit any mistake or blunder, kindly excuse me. In fact, I request our elders and other learned persons to guide me and advise in this regard.

Idoltary, breaking Idols and E. V. Ramaswami Naicker

: As it has been the Indian tradition to start with “Pillaiyar suzhi” or writing “bindhu” or

to denote Vinayaka / Ganapati and moreover, “Vinayaka chaturthi” comes on September 3, 2008, I start with the judgment on `breaking of Vinayaka Idols”. The entire judgment as appearing in http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/qrydisp.aspx?filename=500 is copied and pasted here, of course spending time to rearrange in the following form for brevity and comfortability of reading. The comments are offered in the footnotes, so that the reading of judgment would not be disturbed.

The Judgment

: Start reading:




DATE OF JUDGMENT: 25/08/1958







CITATION:          1958 AIR 1032               1959 SCR 1211


: Insult to Religion-Ingredients of offence–Interpretation of statute – Duty of Court-Indian Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), s. 295.


: The words ” any object held sacred by any class of  persons” occurring in S. 295 Of the Indian Penal Code are of  general import and cannot be limited to idols in temples  or  idols carried on festival occasions. Not merely idols or sacred books, but any other object which is regarded as sacred by any class of persons, whether actually worshipped or not, fall within the description. Queen Empress v. Imam Ali, (1887) I.L.R. 10 All.  150 and Romesh Chunder Sannyal v. Hiru Mondal, (1890) I.L.R. 17 Cal. 852, considered.

Consequently, in a case where the allegation in the petition of  complaint was that one of the accused broke the idol  of God Ganesa in public and the two others actually aided and abetted    him with the intention of insulting  the religious feeling of the complainant and his community who  held     the deity in veneration and the trial Magistrate, on receipt  of the  Police  report that the alleged  occurrence  was  true, dismissed the complaint under S. 203 of the Code of Criminal Procedure holding that the breaking of a mud image of Ganesa was not an offence under s. 295 of the Indian Penal Code and the Sessions judge and the High Court in revision,  agreeing with the view of the trial Court, refused to direct  further enquiry :

Held, that the courts below were clearly in error in interpreting S.  295 of the Indian Penal Code in the way they (lid,  but  since  the complaint stood long  dismissed,  no further enquiry need be directed into the matter.

Held, further, that the Courts must be circumspect in such matters and pay due regard to the religious susceptibilities of different classes of persons with different  beliefs, whether they shared those beliefs or not or  whether  those beliefs in the opinion of the Court were rational or not.


CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 49 of 1956.

Appeal by special leave from the judgment and            order dated October 13, 1954, of the Madras High Court in Criminal Revision Case No. 267 and 1954 154 (Criminal Revision Petition No. 249 of 1954) arising out of the judgment and order dated January 12, 1954, of the  Court of  the District and Sessions Judge  as  Tiruchirapalli  in Criminal Revision Petition No. 17 of 1953.

R. Ganapathy Iyer and  G. Gopalakrishnan,   for the appellant.

No one appeared for the respondents[4]


1958.  August 25.  The Judgment of the Court was delivered by  SINHA J.-

The only question for determination in this  appeal by  special  leave, is whether the  petition  of  complaint, disclosed  a prima facie offence under s. 295 of the  Indian Penal  Code.  The courts below have taken the view that it did not, and on that ground, it stood summarily dismissed, before evidence pro and con had been recorded. It appears that the appellant filed a petition of complaint in the court of the Additional First-Class Magistrate, Tiruchirappalli, against the respondents, three in number. The petition of complaint alleged inter alia that the  first accused is  the leader of Dravida Kazakam (a community  of persons who profess to be religious reformers, one of  whose creeds is to carry on propaganda against idol worship[5]),  and as  such,  he was out to “vilify a certain section  of the Hindu  community and do propaganda by holding  meetings  and writing articles. “It is further alleged in the petition of complaint that “recently, the first accused announced his intention of breaking the image of God Ganesa, the God sacred to the Saiva Section of the Hindu Community[6] on 27th May, 1953, in a public meeting at Town Hall.

This caused terror – commotion in the mind of the Saivite Section of            the – Hindu Community. “The complainant claims to be a Saivite. The complainant further alleged in his petition that on May 27,  1953, at about 5-30 p.m., the accused broke an idol  of God  Ganesa  in public at the Town Hall Maidan, and  before breaking  the idol, lie made a speech, and expressly stated that he  intended  to insult the  feelings  of the Hindu community by breaking the idol of God Ganesa. The said act of breaking the idol was alleged to have been  actively abetted by instigation and aid  by the other two accused persons, who also  made  speeches. The petition of complaint also alleged that the  said  act  of breaking the image of God Ganesa was done with the intention of  insulting the religious feelings of certain sections  of  the Hindu community, who hold God Ganesa in veneration, and that the acts complained of, amounted to offences under ss. 295   and  295A of  the  Indian  Penal Code. On those allegations, the petition of complaint (dated June 5, 1953) prayed that processes might issue against the three accused persons.  In the list of witnesses appended to the petition, figured[7] the Additional District  Magistrate,  the Sub-Divisional  Magistrate,    the Town Sub-Inspector  of police, Tiruchi Fort, and Sub-Magistrate, Tiruchy Town. On the same date, the learned magistrate examined the complainant on oath[8]. The complainant made statements in support of his allegations in the petition of complaint. Thereupon, the learned magistrate directed that the petition of complaint be sent to the Circle Inspector of  police, Trichy, for inquiry  and report under s. 202, Criminal  Procedure  Code. On  June 26, 1953, on receipt of the police report which “showed that though the occurrence as alleged had taken place it was a point of law if the act of the accused would amount to  any offence “, the learned magistrate passed his  order, dismissing  the complaint  under s. 203 of the Criminal Procedure Code. In the course of his order, the learned magistrate observed as follows:-

The mud figure of Ganesa alleged to have been broken by accused is not an object held sacred or worshipped by any class of persons[9]. Simply because it resembled the God Ganesa held in veneration by a section it cannot become an object hold sacred[10]. Even Ganesa idol abandoned by the people as unworthy of worship loses its sanctity and it is no longer an object held sacred by anybody, since such given up  idols are found in several places of defilement[11]. It is not an offence if a person treads union any such abandoned idol[12].

Therefore the breaking of mud figure of Ganesa does not amount to an offence under Section 295, Indian Penal Code[13]. “The speeches delivered by the accused with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religious feelings of a community, no doubt amount to an offence under Section 295-A, Indian Penal Code.  But for laying a complaint under this section, the sanction of the Government is necessary[14]. This section has been clearly mentioned in the complaint and it cannot be said it was included by oversight. Without a proper sanction an offence under this section is unsustainable[15]. I therefore see no sufficient ground for proceeding with the complaint and I dismiss the same under section 203, Criminal Procedure Code[16]. 

“The   complainant  moved  the  learned Sessions  Judge of Tiruchirappalli, by his petition in revision, filed on July 9,  1953,  under ss. 435 and 436 of the Criminal  Procedure  Code,  for  setting  aside the order  of  dismissal  of the complaint. In the petition filed in the Court of Session, the complainant stated that the petition was confined to the complaint  in respect of the alleged offence under  s.295, Indian Penal Code, and that it did not seek to revise the order of dismissal of the complaint in respect of an offence under s 295-A of the Indian Penal Code. The learned Sessions Judge dismissed the petition by an order dated January 12, 1954, holding, in agreement with the learned magistrate, that the acts complained of did not amount to an offence under s. 295, Indian Penal Code.  In the course of his order, the learned Sessions Judge made the  following observations:-

I agree with the learned Magistrate that the acts complained of do not amount to an offence.  The accused, who profess to be religious reformers[17] in a campaign against idolatry organized a public meeting at which they broke an earthen image of the God Ganesa. The particular image broken was the private property[18] of the accused and was not in itself an object held sacred by any class of persons; nor do I think[19] that idol breaking by a non-believer[20] can reasonably be regarded by a believer as an insult  to his religion; and the ingredients of Section 295, Indian  Penal Code, are therefore not made out. “

The complainant then moved the High Court in its revisional jurisdiction under s. 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The matter was heard by a learned single Judge of that Court. The learned single Judge also agreed with the courts below in the reasons given by them for dismissing the petition of complaint, and refused to order further inquiry[21]. In the course of his judgment, he discussed the question whether a mud image of God Ganesa, came within the scope of the words “any object held sacred by any class of  persons”  in s. 295, and he answered the question in the  negative. In this connection, he referred to the judgment of the Full Bench  of  the Allahabad High Court in the case of Queen Empress v. Imam Ali (1), which is directly an authority for this  proposition only that the word ‘object’ in s. 295 of the  Indian  Penal Code, does not include  animate  objects. That case dealt with the complaint of killing a cow. Edge C.J. in the course of his judgment, made  an observation that  the  word ‘object ‘ should  be interpreted ejusdem generis with the words ‘place of worship’, and by way of  an example of such an inanimate object, he mentioned an  idol. That observation, if anything, is not against the complainant. The learned single Judge also referred to the case of Romesh Chunder Sannyal v. Hiru Mondal (2),  which also is not in point inasmuch as it dealt with the case of a dedicated  bull.   But the learned Judge seemed to draw from those cases the inference which may be stated in his own words, as follows:-

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