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India: Curbing dissent with the industry of hurt religious sentiments

Saturday 2 May 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/interim-relief-prashant-bhushan-gujarat-fir-hurting-religious-sentiments

Rule of Law
Interim relief to Prashant Bhushan in Gujarat FIR for hurting religious sentiments

Without going into the merits of the case, the Supreme Court has directed that no coercive action be taken against Bhushan until next hearing

Sabrangindia

01 May 2020

The Supreme Court, has granted interim protection until next hearing to Prashant Bhushan in an FIR filed against him in Gujarat for hurting religious sentiments. He moved the apex court with a writ petition for quashing of the said FIR on Thursday, which was immediately taken up for hearing today.

The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna directed Gujarat Police to not take coercive action against Mr. Bhushan until the next hearing, which was set for two weeks later.

The complaint was registered by one Jaydev Rajnikat Joshi in Rajot, Gujarat under section 295A and 505(1) of the Indian Penal Code against Bhushan’s post on Twitter which read as follows:

“As crores starve and walk hundreds of miles home due to the lockdown, our heartless ministers celebrate consuming and feeding the opium of Ramayana and Mahabharata to the people.”

This tweet was accompanied by a picture of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar watching “Ramayana” serial on TV. The FIR alleged that this amounted to hurting of religious sentiments.

Mr. Bhushan’s petition submitted that the tweet was only showing the apathy of the Minister towards migrant labourers crisis and was in no way intending to religious sentiments to any measure.

Justice Ashok Bhushan asked the counsel for Mr. Bhushan, Advocate Dushyant Dave, “Mr. Dave, anybody can watch anything on TV. How can you say people cannot watch this and that?”. To this, Dave replied saying, “No, we are not on people watching something on TV. But we are on the FIR”.

Further, the petition stated that the phrase “religion is the opium of the masses” is a quote by Karl Marx which has even been used by Delhi High Court in one of its judgments. Hence it is clear that Mr. Bhushan’s intention were not of hurting any religious sentiments and that his genuine criticism of the government has been twisted to give it a perverse meaning.

The offence under section 505(1) of IPC was for retweeting two tweets of Ashlin Mathews (editor of national Herald) and Kannan Gopinathan (former IAS officer) which were in criticism of the government.

The petition also states that the FIR is an abuse of law and that no case is made out against him. Moreover, the fact that the FIR was registered after 15 days is nothing but an attempt to curb dissent.