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Arrested over Gyanvapi post, DU associate professor Ratan Lal gets bail

Lal's lawyers argue that his arrest was in violation of Supreme Court guidelines in its Arnesh Kumar judgment and that he himself is a devotee of Lord Shiva.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: May 22, 2022 8:25:00 am
DU professor Ratan Lal after being produced in a Delhi court on Saturday.

Observing that the Indian civilisation is known to be accepting to all religions and any subject in this country can have 130 crore different views, a Delhi court granted bail to Delhi University associate professor Ratan Lal, who was arrested over an allegedly objectionable social media post about the claims of a Shivling being discovered inside the Gyanvapi mosque.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Malik granted bail to Lal, noting that his post was “speculative in nature with regard to the structure/symbol which as of now is not accessible in public domain”.

DU professor Ratan Lal after being produced in a Delhi court on Saturday.

The court said this considering the fact that the remark was made on a structure claimed by different groups as different religious symbols, and the controversy relates to a report which is not in public domain. “While considered in the aforesaid context, the post of the accused may be a failed attempt at satire regarding a controversial subject which has backfired, resulting in the present FIR,” it said.

The CMM also spoke at length on the tolerance of the Indian civilisation and the divergent views people may have on a subject. “It is observed that Indian civilisation is one of the oldest in the world and known to be tolerant and accepting to all religions. The presence or absence of intention to create animosity/ hatred by words is subjective in nature as is the perception of the recipient who reads/hears a statement,” the court said.

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The CMM said India was a country of more than 130 crore people and “any subject can have 130 crore different views and perceptions”. “The feeling of hurt felt by an individual cannot represent the entire group or community and any such complaint regarding the hurt feelings has to be seen in its context considering the entire spectrum of facts/circumstances,” the court said.

Elaborating further on how different people may view the post, the court said: “The undersigned, in personal life, is a proud follower of Hindu religion and would call the post to be distasteful and unnecessary comment made on a controversial topic. For another person, the same post can appear to be shameful but may not incite the feeling of hatred towards another community. Similarly, different persons may consider the post differently without being enraged and may in fact feel sorry for the accused to have made an unwarranted comment without considering the repercussions.”

The court agreed that the “accused did an act which was avoidable considering the sensibilities of persons around the accused and public at large” and said that the post “though reprehensible, does not indicate an attempt to promote hatred between communities”.

Addressing the police action, the court said that it understands the anxieties of the force as it is tasked with maintaining peace and order and it would take action at the slightest hint of unrest. It, however, maintained that the court has to employ higher standards while considering the need to send a person to custody.

The prosecution had sought 14-day judicial custody of Lal to “investigate the matter properly”.

Lal’s lawyers had moved his bail application before the CMM arguing that his arrest was in violation of Supreme Court guidelines in the Arnesh Kumar judgment and that he did not incite anyone through his social media post.

Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, who appeared on behalf of police told the court that “prima facie some comments have been passed that has the potential to disturb public tranquility”.

“Accordingly the FIR was registered… the most important aspect, not expected from such an educated person, was after making such type of remarks, he has not stopped there, he has been defending himself through different videos uploaded on YouTube,” Shrivastava argued.

Lal’s lawyers argued that his arrest was in violation of Supreme Court guidelines. “What circumstances happened that you had to make an arrest? He was not a criminal or a habitual offender. He is a professor in a reputed college.

You had proper time, you could have served notice, waited for a reply, and if there was unsatisfactory reply then you could have arrested. This is contempt of Arnesh Kumar judgment and the officers involved in this arrest should face departmental enquiry,” Lal’s lawyer submitted.

Lal’s lawyers also told the court that he was “an authority on Ambedkar” and a person of his “stature and intellect” had “not created any enmity” or “called for violence”. They argued that rather Lal had accorded respect to the Hindu God Shiva. “Shiva is not a property of a certain section of society. Would he incite his own people? He is a Shiv devotee himself,” Lal’s lawyer submitted.

The prosecutor rebutted this by stating that if Lal was “an authority on Ambedkar, he should have thought prior to posting that. You should have behaved in a responsible manner”.

Lal’s lawyers also argued that his “prolonged custody would have an impact on his service” and if people are arrested for what they wrote on social media, then “jails will be thronged by intellectuals”.

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