DU professor, arrested over ‘Shivling’ post, granted bail
The feeling of hurt felt by an individual cannot represent an entire group or community, chief metropolitan magistrate Siddharth Malik said while directing police to release Lal immediately
Delhi University professor Ratan Lal, arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiments over a controversial social media post on the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, was granted bail on Saturday by a local court, which remarked that there was bound to be many different views in a country of 1.3 billion people.
The feeling of hurt felt by an individual cannot represent an entire group or community, chief metropolitan magistrate Siddharth Malik said while directing police to release Lal immediately after he furnished a bond of ₹50,000 and a surety of a similar amount.
Lal will have to “strictly refrain from social media posts or interviews regarding the controversy”, the magistrate said, noting that it was “true that the accused did an act which was avoidable, considering the sensibilities of the public at large”.
“Indian civilization is one of the oldest in the world and known to be tolerant and accepting to all religions,” the court said in its four-page order. “The presence or absence of intention to create animosity/hatred by words is subjective in nature as in the perception of the recipient who reads/hears a statement.”
Lal was arrested on Friday after a case was registered against him at north Delhi’s cybercrime police station for a social media post on the claims of a Shivling being found at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi. He was charged under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion by words) and 295A (malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code on a complaint filed by Vineet Jindal, a lawyer.
Granting relief to Lal, the court said the matter with respect to the discovery of a Shivling at the Gyanvapi mosque was pending before a court and the photographs, used by Lal in his social media post, were not verified. “Therefore, it is clear that the post by the accused is speculative in nature with regard to a structure/symbol which as of now is not in public domain,” Malik said.
Lal’s post may appear to be a failed attempt at satire regarding a controversial subject that has backfired, the magistrate said. The court noted that the accused was a person of repute, had no criminal antecedents, and was unlikely to flee the law.
Lal’s lawyers sought bail on the grounds that hehad no intention to hurt the religious feelings of any person or group. They added that Lal is a person of repute, himself a follower of Hinduism and did not want to create any religious animosity.
Appearing for the authorities, public prosecutor Atul Shrivastava sought judicial custody of Lal, contending that his social post clearly intended to incite religious hatred. Lal had given several interviews to explain the post in which the alleged derogatory remarks were made, he said.
Lal, an associate professor at Delhi University’s Hindu College, had earlier said he had simply posed a question as a student of history. “People can be hurt by anything. Academic discourse cannot be sidelined on account of perceived hurt,” he had said. “I had asked a simple question to enquire if the so-called Shivling was broken or cut. Mullahs and pandits don’t need to comment on it. An art historian should answer this question.”