Associate professor of Delhi University’s Hindu College Ratan Lal was arrested on Friday night over an objectionable social media post regarding the claims about a ‘Shivling’ found inside the Gyanvapi Masjid complex in Varanasi, police said. An FIR was lodged against Lal last Tuesday after a complaint filed by a lawyer named Vineet Jindal. In his complaint, Jindal claimed that the alleged tweet on the ‘Shivling’ was “derogatory, inciting and provocative”.
Lal was arrested by the Cyber Police Station, North under 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).
Advocate of Ratan Lal Mehmood Pracha said that Lal’s arrest was a case of police overreach. “A false case was registered against him (Prof Ratan Lal). The FIR & complaint doesn’t mention one thing that can be termed as a cognizable offence. Despite that, arrests cannot be made u/s 153A & 295A IPC, police don’t have that power,” Pracha told reporters.
“This arrest is also a contempt of the judgement by the Supreme Court… & a violation of section 3 in the Scheduled Castes & the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act… we will prove his innocence. More protests should happen,” added Pracha.
In his defence, Lal had said that being a historian, he was entitled to his views and he had used “very guarded language” in his post. “In India, if you speak about anything, someone or the other’s sentiment will be hurt. So this is nothing new. I am a historian and have made several observations. As I wrote them down, I have used very guarded language in my post and still this. I will defend myself,” said Lal.
Soon after his arrest, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted in support of Lal and said that he was exercising his fundamental right of free speech and expression. “I strongly condemn Prof Ratan Lal’s arrest. He has the Constitutional Right of opinion and expression,” he tweeted.
(With inputs from PTI)