Kerala activist Rehana Fathima surrenders before police after SC rejects plea in POCSO case

Controversial activist Rehana Fathima surrendered before the police here on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court dismissed her anticipatory bail plea in cases against her for circulating a video in which she was semi-nude, allowing her minor children to paint on her body.

Police said Fathima presented herself before the South Police station under the Kochi Commissionerate this afternoon.

The activist will be produced before the magistrate court here after completing formalities of her arrest, they said.

The allegation against Fathima, who made an attempt to enter the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala in 2018, is that she asked her children, a boy and girl aged 14 and 8 respectively to paint on her semi-nude body.

The video was shot by her and uploaded on social media.

After the video was found by the Cyber Dome of Kochi Police, a case was registered against the activist in June, for offences punishable under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Dismissing the anticipatory bail petition of Fathima, the Supreme Court on Friday had said the court is a little baffled at the kind of case that has come up before it.

The top court further observed as to what kind of impression the children will get about the culture of this country through such videos.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari said this kind of thing is unthinkable and would leave the society in a bad taste.

She had moved the apex court after the Kerala High Court on July 24 dismissed her anticipatory bail plea, observing that it was not in a position to agree with the petitioner that she should teach sex education to her children in this manner.

Earlier, the woman was also booked by the police in Pathanamthitta district under the Information Technology Act and the Juvenile Justice Act on a complaint lodged by BJP OBC Morcha leader A V Arun Prakash.

The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights had also directed the police to register a case against the woman under various sections of the POCSO Act.

The Supreme Court on Friday junked a plea filed by Kerala activist Rehana Fathima to challenge a High Court order that rejected her petition against a case registered under the POCSO Act and IT Act over her controversial video.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra noted that it was an act to spread obscenity. "What impression will growing-up children get?" the court asked.

The petitioner, mother to a 14-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl, had uploaded a video clip titled 'Body Art and Politics' on YouTube, showing her two children painting on her semi-naked body.

Rehana's counsel contended before the apex court that children seen in a video clip are "fully clothed" and his client has been charged with child pornography and not obscenity. "Does female nudity (even when not visible) per se constitutes obscenity?" he pleaded on behalf of his client.

Justice Mishra said that the court was not interested in such a case. The bench, also comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari asked the counsel: "How can you make use of children for this?"

Rehana's counsel contended that her stand has always been that if a man is semi-naked, there is nothing sexual about it. But if a woman does so, it is considered obscene, the counsel pointed out.

The lawyer insisted that his client Rehana is of the opinion that the only way out of this mindset is to sensitise people. She has moved an anticipatory bail plea in a matter.

The counsel argued that he is not focusing on morals involved, but on kind of statutory provisions invoked against her. "The children in the video are fully clothed. How can it fall under the purview of Section 13 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act?"

Justice Mishra said that the Kerala High Court had already looked into the merits of the case and dismissed her plea.

Rehana's plea mentioned that even "goddesses in Kerala are frequently depicted in idols and murals with bare breasts. When one prays at the temple the feeling is not of sexual arousal but one of divinity".

"It may be noted that the video is still available on YouTube and has not been taken down because it shows no nudity," she pleaded.

She said that the prosecution had, however, accused her of offences punishable under Sections 13, 14, and 15 of the POCSO Act, Section 67B of the Information Technology Act, and Section 17 of the Juvenile Justice Act.

After the Supreme Court allowed women in traditionally barred age groups of 10-50 into the Sabarimala temple in September 2018, Fathima made an attempt to enter the shrine, but had to retreat following protests by Hindu activists and devotees.

Fathima was sacked from employment by the state-run BSNL in May this year for her intentional act of outraging the religious feelings of devotees through social media posts.

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Free Press Journal