Court clears AU professor of hate speech over Gyanvapi ‘shivling’

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

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Malik pointed out that India is a country of over 130 crores of people and any topic can have 130 crores of different views and perceptions.

Judge also shared that being a “proud follower of the Hindu religion”, he found the post “in bad taste” and a “unnecessary” comment on a controversial topic. However, the court was of the opinion that Lal’s post could not incite hatred.

“For another person, the same message may seem shameful but cannot incite feelings of hatred towards another community. Likewise, different people may view the message differently without being furious and may actually feel sorry that the accused made an unwanted comment regardless of the repercussions,” the order said.

The order also emphasized that the sense of hurt experienced by an individual cannot represent the entire group or community.

“Any complaints about a sense of hurt must be considered in context taking into account all of the facts/circumstances,” he stressed.

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

The message was declared speculative in nature with respect to a structure or symbol which, as of this writing, was not in the public domain.

“The defendant’s post may appear to be a failed attempt at satire on a controversial topic that backfired and resulted in this FIR,” the court noted.

He also observed that Indian civilization is one of the oldest in the world and known to be tolerant towards all religions.

Delhi police were asking for a 14-day remand to investigate the case, saying they had so far received six complaints against Lal.

“It was not expected of such an educated person,” the Delhi police lawyer said, saying the professor was also defending the posts in YouTube videos.

Lal’s lawyer called his arrest an “abuse of rights”. “Prisons will be filled with intellectuals,” he said. There was no case here, he said, adding that the FIR should not have been filed either. He also asked for a departmental investigation against the police for having arrested him directly, without giving notice.

“This is electronic evidence. If a notice had been issued, the evidence could have been removed with one click,” police said.

“If a person’s tolerance is low, how can I be held responsible? India is a democratic country. This FIR must be revoked,” Lal’s lawyer said while asking for bail.

The complainant, a Delhi-based lawyer, Vineet Jindal, had written to the Delhi Police about the “inciting and provoking statement”.

“Our Constitution provides every citizen with the freedom of speech and expression, but the abuse of this right is inexplicable when it threatens the honor and harmony of the country and provokes its citizens on the basis of community and religion and threatens the security of the nation. Then it is considered a serious offence,” Jindal told IANS.

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Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2022, 8:57 AM IST

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