'India has more than 130 crores people, any subject can have 130 crores different views & perceptions': Delhi Court grants bail to DU professor Ratan Lal

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A Delhi Court on Saturday granted bail to a Delhi University Professor Ratan Lal, arrested for the controversial post on Facebook, relating to the ‘Shivling’ in the ongoing Gyanvapi dispute.

Lal was booked for charges under Section 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 and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 for posting alleged defamatory and inciting material on Facebook related to the Gyanvapi Mosque case to disturb the religious harmony.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Siddhartha Malik of Tis Hazari Courts stated, “India is a country of more than 130 crores people and any subject can have 130 crores different views and perceptions.”

“The feeling of hurt felt by an individual cannot represent the entire group or community. Any such complaint regarding hurt feelings has to be seen in its context considering the entire spectrum of facts/circumstances,” added the court.

Court, however, opined that Lal, in his personal life was a ‘proud follower of Hindu religion and that the post was a ‘distasteful’ and an ‘unnecessary’ comment made by him on the controversial topic.

Court though clarified that Lal’s post may not incite feelings of hatred. Court said, “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 feel sorry for the accused of having made an unwanted comment without considering the repercussions.”

“The post of the accused may appear to be a failed attempt at satire regarding a controversial subject which had backfired, resulting in the present FIR," noted CMM Malik.

Furthermore, the court observed that the Indian civilization is one of the oldest globally and known to be tolerant and accepting of all religions and the presence or absence of intention to create animosity/hatred by words is subjective as is the perception of the recipient who reads/hears a statement.

"The anxiety of police can be understood as the police are tasked to maintain peace and order and at the slightest hint of unrest would come into action to prevent the situation from going out of hand”, added the Court.

However, it was also emphasized by the CMM that the court has to employ higher standards while considering the need to send a person to custody. Therefore, while granting bail to Lal, Court also took note of the fact that Lal is a person of good repute with no criminal antecedent and there is no likelihood of him fleeing the course of law.

Case Title: State v. Ratan Lal