Supreme Court Grants Interim Protection To Indore Law College Professor In Case Over 'Hinduphobic' Book In Library

Update: 2023-02-03 09:24 GMT

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice and sought the response of the state of Madhya Pradesh with respect to the anticipatory bail plea of Dr. Mirza Moziz Beg, an assistant professor at Indore’s Government Law College, which has been embroiled in controversy over the presence, in its library, of an allegedly ‘Hinduphobic’ and ‘anti-national’ book titled Collective Violence and Criminal Justice System by Dr. Farhat Khan.

"Issue notice. In the meanwhile, there shall be interim protection against the petitioner, subject to him diligently participating in the investigation, if required", the bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli ordered.

Advocate Aljo K Joseph, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted, “The book itself has been taken by the police. Surprisingly, it is in the LLM syllabus that has been approved by the academic council and the Chancellor.” Justice Kohli interjected, “You do not have to say anything. We have read it. That is why we are issuing notice.”

The complaint against Beg and others, including the author and the publisher of the book, and the principal of the law college, Dr. Inamur Rahman, was lodged by one Lucky Adiwal, an LLM student and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader who accused them of promoting enmity between different groups and hurting religious feelings. According to the student organisation, the book contained objectionable material against Hindus and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Following closely on the heels of the massive protests staged on campus by ABVP, Beg, Rahman, and three others faced disciplinary action. Not only was the embattled principal forced to resign from his post, but on the strength of a report submitted by a seven-member committee, the higher education minister, Mohan Yadav, suspended Beg and Rahman with immediate effect, besides terminating the services of the three other faculty members involved in the row.

In a special leave petition, Beg has denied all the charges levelled against him, maintaining that the book was bought in 2014, long before he joined the college on a contractual basis or when he was engaged as a permanent member of the faculty. He has also pointed out that the book has been a part of the master’s curriculum for more than 18 years and taught to all postgraduate students specialising in Criminal Law across the state of Madhya Pradesh. “Academic freedom and a book published by someone in 2014 cannot be the basis of a first information report when the petitioner has no connection or remote knowledge of the book,” Beg has asserted. The appeal has been preferred against an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, by which his application for anticipatory bail was rejected, “taking note of the fact that the allegation is that being a professor in the law college, he incited the students of the college to read controversial book available with the library with an intention to spread hatred in the mind of student of Hindu religion.” The court further observed, “It appears that present applicant is the professor making statement which promotes enmity, hatred and ill-will between different sections of society, which hurts sentiment of Hindu community.”

Earlier, in December of last year, the Supreme Court had granted Rahman interim protection from arrest after Madhya Pradesh High Court refused to grant him interim relief. Subsequently, he was granted anticipatory bail by the High Court. When the state’s counsel informed a division bench of the top court that the state intended to challenge the High Court order, Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud expressed his incredulity. He exclaimed, “States must have other serious things to do. A book, that was purchased in 2014, is found in the library which is said to have communal undertones. Therefore, the principal is sought to be arrested. Are you serious?”

Case Title

Mirza Moziz Beg v. State of Madhya Pradesh | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 1601 of 2023

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