Updated: February 10, 2021 2:30:21 am
The Supreme Court on Monday partly stayed the Kerala High Court order restraining former BSNL employee Rehana Fathima from publishing, transmitting, sharing, uploading or disseminating any material or comments through any public visual and electronic media, but directed that the prohibition on her spreading any comment that may affect religious sentiments will continue.
A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman was hearing her appeal against the HC order of November 23 last year, which came in the wake of a case over a cookery video she had uploaded in which she “repeatedly” referred to the meat used in the recipe as “gomatha” meat. The case came up while she was on bail in a 2018 case of hurting religious sentiments by uploading “photographs exposing herself in sexually implicit postures supplemented with derogatory materials referring to the Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala”. The HC had initially rejected her anticipatory bail in the 2018 case, holding that her actions “prima facie appeared to have the propensity to wound the religious feelings of devotees…” and that “it did not appear to be unintentional or innocuous…”
Subsequently, she was arrested and while granting bail, the HC directed that “she shall not directly or indirectly or through any other person, through print, visual or other electronic media, make, share, forward, disseminate or propagate any comment, which may affect or has the propensity to affect, the religious feelings or sentiments of any community or group or society”.
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The complaint lodged after the cookery show alleged that she had violated the bail conditions imposed in 2018. A single judge bench of Justice Sunil P Thomas, who heard the matter, concluded that “there is no dispute that the accused had uploaded a video on the social media captioned as ‘Gomatha Ularthu’ depicting herself preparing the above food item and that the term ‘Gomatha’ was repeatedly used to refer to the meat used for preparing food”. The court said that it is for the investigation to find out whether the act amounted to offence under Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot—if rioting be committed—if not committed) of the IPC and proceeded to examine if she had flouted the bail condition set by it.
“There cannot be any dispute that the term ‘Gomatha’ as is commonly understood is with reference to holy or sacred cow. Scriptures quoted by the complainant show that, since the Vedic period, cow is revered as holy as deities, in India. If it is so believed by several lakhs of Hindus throughout the country, definitely, the use of the term Gomatha as a synonym for meat used in [the] cookery show, prima facie is likely to wound the religious feelings of those believers…” the court said while concluding that she violated bail condition.
The HC in its November 23, 2020 order directed that till the trial in the case over the ‘Gomatha’ remarks is over, the “accused shall not directly or indirectly or through any other person, publish, transmit, share, upload or disseminate or publish any material or any of her comments through any visual and electronic media, open to public”. Its 2018 order had restrained her from disseminating content “that may affect or has the propensity to affect, the religious feelings or sentiments of any community or group or society”.
The SC, while staying the condition in the 2020 order, retained the condition in the 2018 order.
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