Freedom of speech and expression in a secular State does not give one license to injure and hurt religious feelings and beliefs of fellow citizens, the Allahabad High Court observed on Monday (Mohammad Nadeem v. State of UP).
Single-Judge Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, therefore, rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Mohammad Naeem, a Popular Front of India (PFI) activist, who allegedly made statements against foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram Temple at Ayodhya and exhorted Muslims to come forward to protect the site of Babri Masjid.
“The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression in a secular State is not an absolute license to injure and hurt the religious feelings and faiths and beliefs of fellow citizens,” the order said.
In the instant case, the Court noted that the comments/propaganda made by the applicant with regard to one religion or community were capable of inciting one community or group against other community.
“Therefore, prima facie, the offence punishable under Section 153A IPC is attracted to the facts of the case. A person who takes the risk of dissemination of blasphemous messages is not entitled to get the discretion of the Court exercised in his favour,” the Court said.
According to the prosecution case, the complainant, Anil Kumar along with Amit Kumar had reached their village Bahrauli, Khartua when they were informed by the villagers that the applicant-accused Mohammad Naeem, was propagating that since the foundation laying ceremony of temple at Ayodhya is being done on the land of mosque, every Muslim has to come forward to protect the site of Babri Masjid.
Based on Anil Kumar’s complaint, an FIR was registered under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion) of the Indian Penal Code for spreading communal tension between the two communities.
Naeem’s counsel, advocate Yusuf Uz Zaman Safwi, submitted that the allegations were false and fabricated and the FIR was an attempt to cover up the illegality committed by wrongful and unauthorized detention of Naeem by Police authorities in violation of fundamental right to life and liberty.
It was also informed that the applicant had moved an anticipatory bail application before the court below but the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Barabanki on September 28, 2020 rejected the said anticipatory bail application without considering the submissions and contentions made by the applicant.
Safwi also said that the applicant is public spirited person and a reputed social work activist.
The Additional Government Advocate opposed the anticipatory bail plea and submitted that “the applicant is involved in propagating against foundation laying ceremony of Temple at Ayodhya and to promote feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will between the two communities.”
Further, it was also contended that the accused is not merely an ordinary member of PFI but he is an office bearer of PFI and is involved in anti-social/anti-national activities.
The Court after hearing the rival contentions, said that the First Information Report revealed that the accused was “spreading the propaganda about the foundation laying ceremony of temple at Ayodhya”
“The intention to cause disorder or incite people to violence is the sine qua non of the offence under Section 153A I.P.C. To attract Section 153A I.P.C., real intention to incite one group or community against another is absolutely essential. Thus, inciting the feelings of one community or group against other community or group can attract the provisions of Section 153A IPC,” the judgment noted.
In the instant case, the said conditions were satisfied and Section 153A stood attracted, the Court ruled and rejected the plea.