Respect religious sentiments : Allahabad HC

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Rajesh Kumar Pandey

Allahabad: Observing that it is a deliberate act of religious vilification, the Allahabad High Court on Friday denied relief to one Owais Khan, who is accused of making derogatory remarks against Lord Shiva.

Dismissing a petition filed by one Owais Khan, Justice Prashant Kumar observed, “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 stressed the importance of maintaining respect for religious beliefs of various communities.

The court observed that religious sentiments hold immense significance for citizens, and any act aimed at denigrating or disintegrating such sentiments constitutes a “grave affront” to the principle of tolerance and secularism.

The court said that the accused’s actions, which demonstrated a “blatant disregard” for religious sentiments, cannot be viewed as mere inadvertence but would be a deliberate affront to the cherished values of our pluralistic society.

The accused Owais Khan is facing an FIR under sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion), 295-A (intentionally outraging religious sentiments) of IPC and section 6 of Information Technology (Amendment) Act at police station – Charra of Aligarh district with the allegations that he had posted derogatory remarks and deliberately shared offensive photos of Lord Shiva on a social media platform, with the explicit intention of causing hurt to the religious sentiments of another community.

A charge sheet was filed on September 2, 2022, following a thorough investigation. Subsequently, the trial court took cognizance and issued  summon to him on January 13, 2023. Thereafter, he moved the high court with a plea seeking to quash the charge sheet, summoning order, and entire proceedings of the case.The counsel for the petitioner contended that the applicant had been falsely implicated because he had not posted the comment himself; it was made after hacking his account

It was further submitted that assuming the alleged comment has been posted, it still does not constitute any offence and is rather an innocuous statement made without intending to hurt the religious feelings of any community.

On the other hand, the additional government advocate, appearing  for the state, submitted that the applicant’s comment was outrageous and had hurt the religious sentiment; hence, the accused was rightly summoned by the court below.

The court, while rejecting the pleas of the petitioner stressed that in our democratic society, where freedom of speech is highly valued, it is crucial to recognize that this liberty is not absolute and that this right comes with the responsibility to honour the sentiments and beliefs of others.

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