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‘Deliberate act of religious vilification’: Allahabad HC denies relief to Owais Khan for offensive remarks on Lord Shiva

The court noted that religious beliefs are extremely important to citizens and that any action intended to undermine or denigrate religious beliefs is a "grave affront" to secularism and tolerance. The accused's conduct showed a "blatant disregard" for religious beliefs, according to the court, indicating that it cannot be justified as an accidental slight to our pluralistic society's core ideals.

The criminal case against Owais Khan, who is accused of disparaging Lord Shiva on social media, was not quashed by the Allahabad High Court on 19th April identifying his actions as a “deliberate act of religious vilification,” reported Live Law. A bench led by Justice Prashant Kumar emphasized the significance of upholding the dignity of diverse communities’ religious convictions. He declared, “It is incumbent upon the judiciary to send a clear message that such conduct will not be tolerated and will be met with appropriate legal consequences.”

The court noted that religious beliefs are extremely important to citizens and that any action intended to undermine or denigrate religious beliefs is a “grave affront” to secularism and tolerance. The accused’s conduct showed a “blatant disregard” for religious beliefs, according to the court, indicating that it cannot be justified as an accidental slight to our pluralistic society’s core ideals.

The single judge bench commented, “Moreover, the applicant’s conduct by posting derogatory statements is not only an affront to the religious sentiments of the affected community but 2 also undermines the foundational principles of our democracy. By making a mockery of a community’s beliefs and comparing them to mundane objects, the accused has displayed a callous disregard for the deeply held beliefs and sentiments of millions.”

He was also charged with using crude remarks on Hindu society and posting a statement on social media in which he claimed that the road divider was treated like the Shivling and mocked. On 2 September 2022, a charge sheet was submitted after an extensive investigation. The trial court then took cognizance and on 13th January 2023 sent him a summons. He filed a plea with the High Court, attempting to have the charge sheet, summons and all of the case’s proceedings struck.

His attorney argued before the High Court that the applicant had been unfairly accused because the statement was made by someone else after they had hacked his account, rather than by him. Furthermore, it was argued that even in the event that the aforementioned message was posted, it still does not violate any laws and is merely a harmless remark made with no intention of violating any community’s religious sentiments. However, the AGA speaking on behalf of the state contended that the applicant’s statement was outrageous and assaulted religious sensibility which is why the lower court had properly summoned the accused.

A careful inspection of the case file and a detailed analysis of the facts at this point in the proceedings, the court noted, could not definitively establish that the applicant has not committed any crimes. This was based on the facts of the case and the arguments put up before the court. It is important to emphasize that, in our democratic society, where the right to free speech is highly prized, it is important to understand that this liberty isn’t unrestricted and that, along with it, comes the obligation to respect the feelings and beliefs of others.

“The misuse of freedom of speech to denigrate or insult religious beliefs undermines the very fabric of constitutionalism and fundamental human belief upon which our society is built. 9. The principle of secularism, enshrined in our Constitution, underscores the importance of fostering an environment of mutual understanding and acceptance among individuals holding diverse beliefs and identities. The secular fabric of our nation demands individuals to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that may cause harm or offence to any religious community,” the court observed.

The court additionally added that the applicant’s intentional publication of a demeaning photo of Shivling and the tone of the abusive language suggested that he aimed to hurt a specific community’s religious sentiments. The court pointed out, “Such actions cannot be excused as mere expressions of opinion but must be recognized for what they are: deliberate acts of religious vilification there as a deliberate attempt to insult and hurt the sentiments of a particular community.”

It conveyed, “Hence, it is not the reaction of a hypersensitive individual that is at stake here, but the impact on those who genuinely hold the Shivling sacrosanct and are deeply affected by the derogatory social media post and comments. In a society that values religious pluralism and mutual respect, it is incumbent upon individuals to exercise prudence and refrain from actions that may cause unwarranted offence or hurt the sentiments of others, particularly in matters as sensitive as religious beliefs and practices.”

Furthermore, the court rejected the accused’s plea, holding that the remarks on Shivling amply demonstrate his malevolent motive with regard to the religious sentiments of other communities. According to the allegations, the accused intentionally shared offensive photos of Lord Shiva on social media platforms and posted derogatory remarks with the explicit goal of hurting the religious sentiments of another community. He is facing a formal complaint under Sections 153-A, 295-A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 6 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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