Allahabad HC rejects PFI activist’s bail plea, says freedom of speech not absolute

Rejecting the anticipatory bail application of PFI member Mohammad Nadeem, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed that someone who takes the risk of “dissemination of blasphemous messages is not entitled to get the discretion of the Court exercised in his favour”.

The Allahabad High Court has said the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression in a secular state is not a licence to hurt religious feelings, faiths and beliefs of fellow citizens.

Rejecting the anticipatory bail application of Popular Front of India (PFI) member Mohammad Nadeem, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed that someone who takes the risk of “dissemination of blasphemous messages is not entitled to get the discretion of the Court exercised in his favour”.

Nadeem was booked under IPC Section 153-A (promoting enmity) by Barabanki police on a complaint filed by one Anil Kumar who had alleged that the PFI member was “propagating that every Muslim has to come forward to protect the site of Babri Masjid” in view of the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The complaint said due to the “propaganda, there was a probability of communal tension”.

Nadeem’s counsel told the court that allegations made in the FIR were “false and fabricated” and the lodging the FIR “is nothing but off-shoot to the protest as well as the petition filed by the applicant against his illegal detention by the police”.

The High Court observed that prima facie, the offence punishable under IPC section 153A “is attracted to the facts of the case”.

The court, however, clarified that the observations made in its order were “only for the purpose of deciding the application for anticipatory bail” and it should not have any bearing on the investigation or the trial of the case.

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