Legal provisions regarding Trespassing on burial places, etc under section 297 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Trespassing on burial places, etc:
“Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sepulture, or any place set apart for the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any person assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
Section 297 punishes acts of three kinds:
i) Trespass in place of worship or upon the sepulture of the dead,
ii) Indignity to a human corpse, and
iii) Disturbance in a funeral ceremony.
Places reserved for the cremation or burial of the dead are universally regarded with veneration as places sacred to the memory of the dead. They are regarded specially sacred by followers of religions in which belief in the transmigration of the souls is a recognized doctrine. A trespass upon such places is regarded as a sacrilege not lightly to be condoned.
With them the performance of the funeral obsequies in accordance with the orthodox formula is a manner of strict religious injunctions, the slightest disturbance of which might imperil the response of the disembodied spirit of the departed. With others, the feeling of respect due to sympathy, and the refinement which dictates respect for the dead on account of their having entered the great unknown.
Section 297 punishes a person who trespasses on burial place or on places of sepulture. The trespass may be a civil trespass or mere encroachment or an unauthorized entry without amounting to criminal trespass. Trespass here means any violent or injurious act, committed in a place of worship with such intention or knowledge as is defined in Section 297. When some persons had sexual connection inside a mosque, they were offenders under Section 297.
The essence of Section 297 is an intention, or knowledge of likelihood, to wound feelings or insult religion and when with that intention or knowledge trespass on a place of sepulture, indignity to a corpse, or disturbance to persons assembled for funeral ceremonies, is committed it becomes an offence under Section 297.
Where a patient dies while under operation by a doctor who after the death removes the liver of the deceased for transplantation to another patient, without the knowledge and consent of relatives, the doctor would be liable under Section 297 for offering indignity to human corpse.
In Basir-ul-Huq v. State of West Bengal [AIR 1953 SC 293], while, a person kept his dead mother’s body on the funeral pyre, the accused accompanied by the Police, arrived at the cremation ground after giving complaint that the woman was killed by throttling. When the body was examined after extinguishing the fire, there were no wounds or marks of injury on it. The accused was convicted and sentenced to three months rigorous imprisonment for trespassing on the cremation ground and caused the dead body to be taken out.
An offence under Section 297 is cognizable but summons should ordinarily issue in the first instance. It is bailable but not compoundable, and is triable by any Magistrate.