Distasteful, but does not incite hate: Court clears DU professor of hate speech over Gyanvapi 'shivling'

The post was stated to be speculative in nature with regard to a structure or a symbol that, as of now, was not in public domain

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Sunday, May 22, 2022, 08:57 AM IST
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A Delhi court granted bail to DU professor Ratan Lal | ANI

New Delhi: A court here on Saturday granted bail to Delhi University History professor Ratan Lal, who was arrested on Friday night for posting ‘derogatory’ content on social media after the ‘discovery’ of ‘Shivling’ inside the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi during a video survey.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Malik underlined that India was a country of more than 130 crore people and any subject can have 130 crore different views and perceptions.

The judge also shared that being a “proud follower of Hindu religion,” he found the post “distasteful” and an “unnecessary” comment on a controversial topic. However, the court was of the opinion that Lal’s post may not incite feelings of hatred.

“For another person, the same post can appear to be shameful but may not incite the feeling of hatred towards another community. Similarly, different persons may consider the post differently without being enraged and may in fact feel sorry for the accused to have made an unwanted comment without considering the repercussions,” the order held.

The order also highlighted that the feeling of hurt felt by an individual cannot represent the entire group or community.

“Any such complaint regarding hurt feeling has to be seen in its context considering the entire spectrum of facts/circumstances,” it underlined.

Lal was booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295 A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code for a Facebook post.

The post was stated to be speculative in nature with regard to a structure or a symbol that, as of now, was not in public domain.

“The post of the accused may appear to be a failed attempt at satire regarding a controversial subject which had backfired and resulted in the present FIR," noted the Court.

It also observed that the Indian civilisation is one of the oldest in the world and known to be tolerant of all religions.

The Delhi police were seeking 14-day judicial remand to investigate the case, claiming it has received six complaints against Lal so far.

"It was not expected from such an educated person," the counsel for Delhi police said, claiming that the professor was also defending the posts in YouTube videos.

Lal's counsel called his arrest an "abuse of law". "Jails will be thronged by intellectuals," he said. There was no case here, he said, adding that the FIR should also not have been filed. He also demanded a departmental enquiry against the police for directly arresting him, without issuing any notice.

"It's electronic evidence. If notice was issued, the evidence could have been deleted within a click," the police argued.

"If a person's tolerance is low, how can I be held responsible? India is a democratic country. This FIR ought to be quashed," Lal's counsel argued while seeking bail.

The complainant, a Delhi-based advocate, Vineet Jindal, had written to the Delhi Police over the "instigating and provoking statement".

"Our Constitution provides every citizen with the freedom of speech and expression but the misuse of this right is inexplicable when it threatens the honour and harmony of the country and provokes its citizens based on community and religion and threatens the security of the nation. Then it is considered as a grave offence," Jindal told IANS.

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