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Rehana Fathima Can use Social Media Without Hurting Religious Sentiments: Supreme Court Partially Stays HC's Order Over Her Cookery Show "Gomatha Ularth"

Mehal Jain
9 Feb 2021 6:43 AM GMT
Rehana Fathima Can use Social Media Without Hurting Religious Sentiments: Supreme Court Partially Stays HCs Order Over Her Cookery Show Gomatha Ularth
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The Supreme Court bench on Tuesday stayed the Kerala High Court order restricting activist Rehana Fathima from printing, posting or publishing her views on any medium of the media.The bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman was hearing the SLP against the order of November 23, 2020 vide which the High Court Single Bench had imposed strictures on Fatima who had uploaded a video of a cookery...

The Supreme Court bench on Tuesday stayed the Kerala High Court order restricting activist Rehana Fathima from printing, posting or publishing her views on any medium of the media.

The bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman was hearing the SLP against the order of November 23, 2020 vide which the High Court Single Bench had imposed strictures on Fatima who had uploaded a video of a cookery show on social media in which she was cooking "Gomatha Ularth".

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Fathima, prayed for the setting aside or staying of bail condition in clause (ii) of the impugned order- "Till the trial is over, the accused shall not directly, indirectly or through any other person publish, transmit, share, upload or disseminate or publish any material or any of her comments through any visual and electronic media, open to public"

"It is a complete gag", noted Justice Nariman, staying the said condition.

However, the bench was of the view that another bail condition previously imposed in the same matter in November 2018, requiring that "She shall not directly or indirectly or through any other person through print, visual or other electronic media may, share, forward, disseminate or propagate any comment, which may affect or has the propensity to affect, the religious feelings or sentiments of any community or group of society", shall continue.

The bench also issued notice on Fathima's plea.

The Kerala High Court in the impugned order observed that use of term "Gomatha" as a synonym for meat in a cookery show is prima facie likely to hurt the religious feelings of Hindus, who worship cow as a deity.

Holding thus, a Single Bench of Justice Sunil Thomas imposed strictures on activist Rehana Fatima who had uploaded a video of a cookery show on social media in which she was cooking "Gomatha Ularth". It was alleged that she narrated the recipe and purposefully claimed that she was cooking the meat of Gomatha, to hurt the religious sentiments of the community. Accordingly she was booked under Section 153 of IPC.

"There cannot be any dispute that the term "Gomatha" as is commonly understood is with reference to holy or sacred cow. Scriptures quoted by the complainant show that, since the vedic period, cow is revered as holy as deities, in India. If it is so believed by several Lakhs of Hindus through out the country, definitely, the use of the term Gomatha as a synonym for meat used in a cookery show, prima facie is - likely to wound the religious feelings of those believers," the Court held.

It observed that there is absolutely no material on record to show that 'Gomatha' is used as synonym for meat anywhere in India. it held,

"Choice of the word "Gomatha Ularth" prima facie appear to be ill-motivated and purposefully made and that uploading of such a highly objectionable video for public viewing may affect the Fundamental Right of the devotees."

The Court was thus of the opinion that Fatima had violated a bail condition imposed on her (not to hurt the sentiments of any religious community) by the High Court in another case pertaining to publication of offensive materials about Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala.

Though the Court opined that a natural consequence of such conduct should be cancelation of bail, it proceeded to take a lenient view and said,

"The arrest and detention of the accused in two crimes has not improved the conduct of the accused. Still, on a firm belief that she will start recognizing the rights of others also and that exercise of one's Right to Freedom of speech and expression should not offend the Fundamental and statutory rights of others, am inclined to give her one last opportunity."

The order comes with certain strictures on Fatima, including an absolute restriction on using social media until conclusion of the trial.

Till the trial in Crime No.2405 of 2018 is over, accused shall not directly, indirectly or through any other person publish, transmit, share, upload or disseminate or publish any material or any of her comments through any visual and electronic media, open to public, the Court stipulated.

Fatima had contended that cow slaughter was not banned in Kerala and consumption of beef as food in Kerala was not prohibited.

She was recently booked under Section 13 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and Section 67 B of Information Technology Act (IT Act), over a video showing her children painting on her semi-nude body.



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