by Rashi Srivastava


The term religious crime, as the name suggests, relates to the criminal offenses associated with religion. In India, secularism is an important part and this is evident from the fact that religion is the fundamental right that is provided to every citizen in the country. Every religion and its beliefs in India are protected by the Constitution of India. Religion is a sensitive topic as it dictates the morals and the upbringing of an individual. In the past, there have been many instances that tell that mostly all societies have had criminal offenses related to religion. Religious crimes have been a universal problem since immemorial times. Thus, religion has certain negative impacts on the country where violence has occurred mostly in the name of religious hate crimes. It is a major threat to society now. In the present times, when the country is advancing towards technology and development, yet hate crimes exist which contributes as the main reason for the drawback in a civilized society.

Main Issue

To understand religious crimes, firstly some light must be thrown upon religious laws. Religious laws are those which are based upon morality, ethics, culture, and likewise certain obligations of a particular religion. There has been always an interrelation between religion and law. In India, every individual has a different religion, beliefs, caste, and own faith[i]. In the case of SR Bommai vs. Union of India[ii], it was observed that the freedom of religion is a fundamental right provided to the citizens of India by the Constitution. Thus, there is a provision for the protection of the religious beliefs of the people of the country. But, if there will be a misuse of these laws, then the people can be penalized too. Also, India is the origin of the four major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Talking about the Muslim population, 180 million of it resides in India making the country the third largest in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan[iii]. A small population of about 30 million people of Christian minority also resides in India.

But nowadays, there are cases of religious brutality on the rise. People have a prejudice that goes against somebody else’s religion and race. There have been many examples of minorities in India where religious contempt is converted into religious brutality or hate crimes. So, what is understood by hate crimes?

Hate Crime is a crime that is mostly encouraged by intolerance towards a particular race, culture, color, national origin, religion, gender, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation. These crimes are those acts that are done with some kind of a motive. The main essence of hate crimes is criminal offense combined with a bias motive. Hate crimes differ from ordinary crimes not only on the grounds of the type of offender but also because of their effect on the victim. It disturbs and destroys the fabric of society and also violates several rights of the citizens like the right to equality, the dignity of humans, and further can cause psychological injury thus leading to depression and anxiety[iv].

Hate Crimes and Minorities in India. As per a Hate Crime Watch report[v] that minorities were facing 75% of the attacks related to religious hate crimes. The main issue which the developing countries are facing right now is the crime associated with religion. Most of the hate crimes that occurred in the past years are the 9/11 attack, the Nazi slaughter of Jews, the Gujarat Communal Riots, and many more. These crimes were done with a biased motive and that too, in the name of religion. There is also a role of religious law in hate crime. It is a fact that almost every nation has its own set of religious laws on the basis of its religious dictates and teachings, and these laws are supported with penal provisions. Talking about the misuse of freedom of religion, there have been several cases of conversion and re-conversion. Out of the 29 states in India, seven of them have adopted the Freedom of Religion Act which is also known as Anti-Conversion Laws. This act prevents the conversion of religion generally by the use of force, stimulus, or by any other fraudulent means. However, this has given rise to discriminatory practices against minorities. Also, the Indian Constitution does not guarantee the right to freedom of conversion, it only talks about the right to freedom of religion as given under Article 25[vi].

In a case of Digyadarsan Rajendra Ramdassji v. State of Andhra Pradesh[vii], the Supreme Court held that “the right to profess and propagate one’s religion means the right to communicate an individual’s beliefs to another individual or to expose the principles of that faith but would not include within it the right to convert another person to the former’s faith”.

Religious crimes in our country include many instances and examples like the famous Babri-Masjid Incident which was a coalition between the two religions- Hindu and Muslims. One more incident happened, the Godhra train incident, which arose tensions between the two groups. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is an existence of Islam religion throughout the country. Restrictions have been put upon the non-Muslim people in the country and thus, they face discrimination in society[viii].

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1976. This Act was passed in the year 1976 and was amended in 2010. It has continuously been used against many civil society organizations, charities, and other non-governmental organizations. This Act provides that the missionaries, foreign religious organizations must come under the FCRA that puts a limit on the overseas aid to certain NGOs including those too with the religious coalition. Thus, Section 9 of the said Act allows the Government of India to put a stop to the acceptance of foreign aid which will affect the public in general.

Suggestions and Conclusions

The spirit of Secularism is to ensure that the people of the country are living at peace and professing diverse religions, beliefs, or faith. It is a choice to follow any religion. Thus, there should be no kind of restriction on the same. Religious crimes or hate crimes like mob lynching, love jihad, conversions are specifically the origins of making people forced to follow the other religion and therefore, violation of the same gives rise to violence. It infringes various other rights like the constitutional and legal rights of the minorities. To conclude, it can be said that all religions, be it Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. should be embraced with peace and should be respected by everyone.

[i] Hate Crime, Edition,2012)

[ii] 1994 SCC (3)(1)

[iii] Kronstadt K. Alan, India :Religious Freedom Issues, Congressional Research Service, August 2018 (Apr 29 2020, 19:55 IST)




[vii] AIR 1970 SCR (1) 103


[ix] picture: the Hindu


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