Evangelists Cannot Hurt Religious Beliefs and Claim Immunity, Says Madras HC | Madurai News
Madurai: An evangelist cannot outrage the religious beliefs of others and claim immunity from criminal prosecution for intentionally insulting the religious feelings of others, the Madras High Court said.
Judge GR Swaminathan, distinguishing the harsh views of an evangelist on religious beliefs from similar views expressed by a rationalist, reformist or satirist, said the shield of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) would only be available to a rationalist, scholar or satirist.
“We need Charles Darwin, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and many more in public life and speech. Dr Abraham T Kovoor, who wrote the book “Begone Godmen! Encounters with spiritual frauds, ”cannot be considered to have outraged the religious beliefs of Hindus. He spoke as a rationalist. It doesn’t matter that he belonged to Christianity. When comedians Munawar Faruqui or Alexander Babu perform on stage, they are exercising their fundamental right to make fun of others. Again, their religious identity is irrelevant. Here is the “Who?” and where? ”testing is important. Article 295A of the IPC cannot be invoked in such cases because the element of maliciousness is totally absent. Those concerned express their opinions or give vent to their expressions in their capacity as satirists, ”said Judge Swaminathan.
The judge was making the observations upon hearing a petition from the parish priest, Father P George Ponnaiah, who had been convicted of referring to Bhuma Devi and Bharat Mata as sources of infection and filth. The evangelist wanted the court to overturn the FIR.
Judge Swaminathan quashed charges such as criminal intimidation against Ponnaiah, but ruled that IPC section 295A would apply because an evangelist like him could not claim a privilege accessible to neutral commentators. “He cannot insult or insult another’s religion or religious beliefs and continue to claim immunity from the application of Article 295A of the IPC. It is because he considers the other religious as a district to be poached. He cannot be called a disinterested or neutral commentator, ”said the judge.
Quoting Newton’s Third Law – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction – Judge Swaminathan said: “The state cannot remain a silent spectator in such situations. To defend the sanctity of the Constitution and maintain public order, the strong arm of the law will have to fall heavily on those who seek to disrupt community peace and friendship. ”
Upon signing, Judge Swaminathan said he was certain that on Judgment Day God will rebuke George Ponnaiah for committing a non-Christian act.
Ponnaiah was arrested by Kanyakumari police for giving a vicious speech against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Interior Minister Amit Shah, DMK ministers and others at a meeting in Arumanai in the district on July 18, 2021. He also referred to Bharat Mata and Bhuma. Devi in the most offensive terms.
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