A Delhi court on Saturday granted bail to Ratan Lal, an associate professor at the Delhi University who was booked for an allegedly objectionable social media post on the shivling claimed to be found at Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque, ANI reported.
The court directed Lal to furnish a bail bond of Rs 50,000 and a surety of the same amount.
“The feeling of hurt felt by an individual cannot represent the entire group or community and any such complaint regarding hurt feelings has to be seen in its context considering the entire spectrum of facts/circumstances,” the court said in its order, according to NDTV.
The judge, however, directed Lal not to post anything on social media or give interviews on the shivling claimed to have been found at the mosque.
Lal, a professor of history, had been booked on Wednesday on the basis of a complaint filed by a Supreme Court lawyer named Vineet Jindal.
On Friday, Lal was summoned by the police for questioning and later arrested, The Indian Express reported. The professor has been booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and 295A (malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code.
In his complaint, Jindal had alleged that a post made by the professor on social media has hurt the sentiments of Hindus.
“The contents of the statement made by the accused about Shiva Linga is derogatory and provocative,” Jindal added. “It is quite aggravating and defamatory statement for the whole Hindu community.”
After the complaint was filed, Lal said he had been receiving death threats and sought protection from the government.
Critique of religion has been a part of discourse: Lal
After being booked on Wednesday, Lal had defended his social media post saying that it was a critical take on religion.
“Critique of religion has been a part of discourse since the time of Gautam Buddha to [BR] Ambedkar, from [social reformers] Periyar to Phule,” he told The Print. “...Will pandits [priests] identify and declare a piece of relic historically important or will historians do that ?”
In a video message on Facebook, the professor said on May 17 that he makes statements based on arguments and historical references. “I am ready for to openly debate what I say...I do not make statements based on faith, but on logic.”
In another Facebook post on Tuesday, he had posted photos of a letter he had written to the president, prime minister and Union home minister requesting for two armed bodyguards or a licence for an AK-56 rifle for his self-defence.
The Gyanvapi mosque case
On May 12, a Varanasi court had allowed a survey commission to carry out videography inside the Gyanvapi mosque, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The order was passed on a petition filed by five Hindu women last year, seeking permission to offer daily prayers and observe rituals at the back of the western wall of the mosque. They have claimed that an image of the Hindu deity Shringar Gauri exists at the site.
The court-appointed surveyor reported that an oval object had been found in the tank of the Muslim place of worship. Hindu petitioners claimed it is a shivling, a symbolic representation of Shiva. Muslims, however, say that the object is actually a fountain.
On May 16, the Varanasi court passed an order to seal a portion of the mosque.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered to transfer trial court proceedings in the case to the court of a district judge in Varanasi. On May 17, the Supreme Court had directed that the spot at the mosque where the object said to be a shivling was found be protected and that Muslims should not be restricted from offering prayers.
The court is hearing a petition filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the caretakers of the mosque, challenging the Varanasi court’s order to conduct a survey of the mosque.