Noting that there was a need to maintain a delicate balance between individual liberty and the larger interest of society, the Himachal Pradesh High Court dismissed the bail application of an ophthalmologist booked under Section 295-A, 153A and 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) for deliberately and maliciously intending to outrage the religious feelings of Hindus.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Virender Singh observed that “The applicant is not a layman, but, an educated person, who is well aware about the effect of his alleged post and comments. While residing in society, every person has to give due respect to the religious belief of other members of the society. In the name of freedom of expression, the Laxman Rekha should not be crossed.”

Moreover, the applicant has not made any complaint to the police, when, his Facebook account was allegedly hacked by someone. The applicant is having status in society and, as such, he carries more responsibility. He ought to have exercised more caution before allegedly making the comments or putting posts on his Facebook account”, added the Bench.

Advocate Adarsh K. Vashishta appeared for the Applicant, whereas Additional Advocate General H.S. Rawat and Tejasvi Sharma appeared for the Respondent.

The brief facts of the case were that a complaint was received by the police from the ex-councillor Vivek Bhardwaj, Mehatpur Basdehda, Chairman Vyapaar Mandal Mehatpur Basdehda Deepak Diwedi, President Vyapaar Mandal Mehatpur Basdehda Subhash Arey, alleging that the applicant had posted derogatory comments on Facebook against Lord Shiva and Nandi which outraged religious sentiments. According to the complainant, the Applicant was habitual of posting such types of posts. After finding screenshots of the derogatory comments from the Cyber Cell, the police submitted that the act of the applicant led to the insult of religious feelings due to which there was a lot of resentment in the area and there were demonstrations against the said Facebook post.

After considering the submission, the Bench found that the applicant was an educated person and should have been more careful before posting such comments.

Observing that granting bail to the applicant at this stage may send a wrong signal to society, the Bench also considered the police's apprehensions that the applicant may interfere with witnesses.

Considering the allegations in the FIR, the High Court stated that the social media had been used by the applicant for hurting the religious feelings of the followers of a particular religion.

Thus, if the bail application was allowed, then it would encourage other persons to make such type of comments, allegedly causing resentment in the minds of followers of the other religions, which was also not good for the secular fabric of the country, added the Court.

Accordingly, the Bench concluded that the applicant is not entitled to any relief under Section 438 CrPC.

Cause Title: Dr Nadeem Akhtar v. State of Himachal Pradesh

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