The Tis Hazari court granted bail to DU Associate Professor, Ratan Lal, who had been arrested on Friday by Delhi Police responding to an FIR lodged against him in regards to the ‘shivling’ comment controversy. Read to find out more.
Delhi University Associate Professor, Ratan Lal, who was arrested on Friday night, 20th May 2022, after an FIR was lodged against him for making alleged objectionable remarks through a Facebook post, has been granted bail, on a bond of Rs. 50,000 and a surety of likes, by the Tis Hazari court.
The complaint, which was lodged by a Delhi-based lawyer, Vineet Jindal, alleged that Lal had recently shared a “derogatory, inciting and provocative tweet on the Shivling”.
The DU professor had been arrested by the Cyber Police Station, North under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295A (deliberate act to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion). The Delhi police had been seeking a 14-day judicial remand of Professor Ratan Lal in order to facilitate a proper investigation in the case, considering that they had received six complaints against him so far.
Appearing on behalf of the police, Additional Public Prosecutor, Atul Shrivastava, told the court that, “prima facie some comments have been passed that have 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.
On the other hand, Professor Ratan Lal’s lawyers (Advocates Amit Srivastava, Aditya Kumar Chaudhary, Dr Satya Prakash, Sanjay K Chhadha, ND Pancholi, Rahul, Mukesh, Deepak Jakhar and Karish Kumar Mehra) had moved his bail application before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Siddhartha Malik, arguing that his arrest was in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines as mentioned in the Arnesh Kumar judgement.
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 an 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.
On Saturday, 21st May, 2022, students as well as student organisations had held a protest outside Arts Faculty, DU against the arrest of Professor Ratan Lal. This included organisations cuh as AISA, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), and DSU taking a stand in support of the professor. The students participating in the protest held placards saying “Stop attack on our teachers”, “Stop curbing democratic voices”, and “Release professor Ratan Lal”.
The FIR has been lodged against Prof. Lal under the section of blasphemy, an act which has no place in a country such as India which is not a theocratic state. Our constitution recognizes itself as a secular country, promoting all contending schools of thought, including those that are against institutional religions. Therefore, blasphemy must be decriminalized. It is only a tool in the hands of religious fundamentalists to quell voices who stand firmly against religious mongering,” said Noel Benny, SFI Delhi State committee member, while addressing the student gathering.
SFI Delhi also issued a statement in solidarity with the professor, condemning his arrest and the arbitrary action of the state.
This punitive action against Prof. Lal is characteristic of a Brahminical state. Brahminism since its inception as a hegemonic ideology has always violently suppressed its opposers… The current instance of using state machinery and constitutional provisions to penalize critics is only a manifestation of the oppressive ideology, which reaffirms that the state continues to follow the traditions of the Brahmanical order,” read the statement made by SFI Delhi.
Taking its decision, in addition to granting bail, the court directed the DU Professor to refrain from making any new social media posts or from engaging in different means of interaction such as interviews concerning the ‘shivling’ controversy.
In regards to this issue, Professor Ratan Lal had previously argued and made a statement that all he had done was impose a question to the general public as a student of history.
People can be hurt by anything. Academic discourse cannot be sidelined on account of perceived hurt. I had asked a simple question to enquire if the so-called shivling was broken or cut. Mullahs and Pandits don’t need to comment on it. An art historian should answer this question,” said Professor Ratan Lal.
The court said that considering that the concerned remark by the professor had not been made with the intention of inciting any particular group or promoting tension/ enmity between people and had been made on a structure that was being claimed by different groups as different religious symbols, the court considered that “the post of the accused may be a failed attempt at satire regarding a controversial subject which has backfired, resulting in the present FIR.”
The presence of an absence of intention to create animosity/hatred by words is subjective nature as is the perception of the recipient who reads/hears a statement,” the court order stated.
The court also remarked that the feeling of hurt by one individual cannot be considered representative of an entire community or group of people. Thus, any such complaints should be considered in the larger context of the actual facts and circumstances.
This controversy also launched a lengthy discussion on the concept of tolerance as it exists in the Indian culture and the array of opinions that people might have on this 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 remarked.
The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate also commented that with India being a country of more than 130 crore people, there can be 130 crore different views and perceptions on any given subject.
The undersigned, in personal life, is a proud follower of Hindu religion and would call the post to be distasteful and an 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,” said the court, talking about how different people might view the controversial post differently.
https://images.assettype.com/barandbench/2022-05/95080cc7-8d4c-4537-9525-eb04df387e6d/State_v__Ratan_Lal.pdfThe judge noted that the anxieties of the police could be understood and had not been completely ill-placed as they were only trying to accomplish their task of maintaining peace and order amongst the people. However, the court made its decision considering all the facts that were presented before them.
It is true that the accused did an act which was avoidable considering the sensibilities of persons around the accused and the public at large. However, the post, though reprehensible, does not indicate an attempt to promote hatred between communities,” they stated.
Featured Image: @profdilipmandal on Instagram