The Allahabad High Court has refused to quash a criminal case against Owais Khan, accused of making derogatory remarks about Lord Shiva on social media, terming it a "deliberate act of religious vilification there as a deliberate attempt to insult and hurt the sentiments of a particular community."

The bench of Justice Prashant Kumar emphasized the judiciary's responsibility to convey a clear message that such conduct will not be tolerated and will face appropriate legal consequences."Such actions cannot be excused as mere expressions of opinion but must be recognized for what they are: deliberate acts of religious vilification there as a deliberate attempt to insult and hurt the sentiments of a particular community," the Court ruled.

The Court opined, "The intent behind the applicant’s actions must be scrutinized closely. It is evident from the nature of the derogatory remarks and the deliberate posting of a derogatory photo of Shivling that the applicant harbored a malicious intent to outrage the religious feelings of a particular community. This malicious intent is indicative of a deliberate attempt to inflict harm and offend the religious sensibilities of others."

The Bench underscored that this is not a case of hypersensitivity but rather a matter concerning the sanctity and reverence attached to religious symbols by individuals who hold them divine. "While some may perceive the Shivling as an object of religious significance, for many, it embodies profound spiritual and cultural significance. Hence, it is not the reaction of a hypersensitive individual that is at stake here, but the impact on those who genuinely hold the Shivling sacrosanct and are deeply affected by the derogatory social media post and comments," the Court said.

The Court also observed that religious sentiment holds immense significance for citizens, serving as a source of solace, identity, and community cohesion, and any attempt to denigrate or disparage these sentiments constitutes a grave affront to the dignity and religious beliefs of individuals. It pointed out that the Applicant’s actions, seek to mock and ridicule the religious beliefs of others, not only cause emotional distress but also undermine the foundational values of our democratic society.

"Moreover, the applicant’s conduct by posting derogatory statements is not only an affront to the religious sentiments of the affected community but also undermines the foundational principles of our democracy. By making a mockery of a community’s beliefs and comparing them to mundane objects, the accused has displayed a callous disregard for the deeply held beliefs and sentiments of millions," the Court added.

Khan is facing charges under Sections 153-A, 295-A IPC, and Section 6 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act for allegedly posting derogatory remarks and offensive photos of Lord Shiva on social media with the intent of hurting religious sentiments.The Court noted the serious nature of the allegations and the deliberate intent behind Khan's actions, dismissing his plea to quash the case.

The Court further observed that Khan's actions, displaying a blatant disregard for religious sentiments, cannot be construed as mere inadvertence but rather a deliberate offense against the cherished values of pluralistic society. "In a society that values religious pluralism and mutual respect, it is incumbent upon individuals to exercise prudence and refrain from actions that may cause unwarranted offence or hurt the sentiments of others, particularly in matters as sensitive as religious beliefs and practices," the Bench said.

The Court noted, "In the instant case, the comments made on Shivling clearly shows the malicious intent harboured by the applicant on the religious feelings of other community. Such action cannot be clothed as a protection of rights enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, as apparently it was a deliberate attempt by the applicant to insult others’ religious sentiments."

While dismissing Khan's plea, the Court said, "The facts as alleged in the instant matter cannot be said that, prima facie, no offence is made out against the applicant. It is only after the evidence and trial, it can be seen as to whether the offence, as alleged, has been committed or not....Any observation made in this order would not come in the way of the trial. I assume the trial would proceed purely on merits."

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Application filed under Section 482 CrPC.

Cause Title: Owais Khan v. State of U.P. . and Another


Applicant: Advocates Surya Shanker Pandey, Vivek Saran

Opposite Party: Additional Government Advocate Shashi Dhar Pandey

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