Legal Consequences of Breaking Idols in Temples

Idols in the Hindu temples are not toys or statues. They are physical beings that have been stimulated to vibrate in a specific way, causing them to affect everything in their environment. Agama Shastra, a tantric scientific approach that has been perfected over millennia, governs the entire notion and science of idols and their management. The statue, as well as the entire temple, becomes a vibrating body that can affect anyone who is in close proximity to it. This practice of energizing idols was traditionally known as “Prana Prathishta”, literally meaning Establishment of the Lifeforce in the idol. In English, although not completely consistent, we could use the word consecration for it.

Idol, in the eyes of law, is a legal entity. A legal entity can sue as well as be sued. Therefore, there are legal consequences attached when someone breaks or either attempts to break an idol. 

Legal Status of an Effigy

Under the Indian Judicial system, Idols have been given the status of a legal person.                            

Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code clearly lays down that, when a person destroys, damages, or defiles any place of worship or objects of worship held sacred, that is an Idol, will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years along with a fine.

Legal Consequences when a person Defames the Effigy/Religion

Section 295 A of the IPC addresses situations in which someone intentionally does something that offends a group’s religious feelings by insulting its religious beliefs. Also, if a person knowingly insults the religious beliefs of any class by speaking, writing, or using signs, that person will be penalized by law for a term of up to three years, including a fine.

Therefore, when a person attempts to defame a religious class by defaming the Idol, section 295A of the IPC comes into action.

Disturbing religious assembly is discussed in Section 296. As a result, attempting to shatter or slander the Idol constitutes a disruption to a lawful assembly gathered at the temple for the purpose of prayer. A year in prison or a fine, or both, is the penalty for this offense.

Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code might also apply where a person with the deliberate intention of defaming anyone’s religious feelings, utters words that downtrodden the religious sentiment of that person will be punished by law.

Idol Wing of Tamil Nadu Police

The matter relating to Idol theft is such that Indian states like Tamil Nadu have a separate Idol Wing to look into such matters.

Primary functions of the Idol Wing CID

To investigate cases of theft of idols and antiques exceeding the value of Rs 5 Lakhs.To investigate idol theft cases referred by the State Government.To co-ordinate in the investigation of important idol theft cases handled by the District PoliceCollection of intelligence on nefarious activities of antique dealers and art collectors.

Who Can File a Case?

In incidents of idol breaking or theft, the person submitting the complaint should ideally be the temple, represented by its caretakers, or Trustees, if a trust exists. If no one takes action, any person belonging to the religion of the whole Idol who has been sabotaged may initiate a case under Sections 296 and 298 of the Indian Penal Code.

Recent Judgements

An incident took place in Mumbai where the water began to drip from the feet of the statue of Jesus. A rationalist thinker Sanal Edamaruku analyzed the incident and explained how the water from a nearby blocked drain was dripping from Jesus’ feet by the phenomenon of what is called the capillary action. He was held guilty under Article 295A of the IPC.

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