A Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Delhi filed a criminal defamation complaint against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Saturday for saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi is like a “scorpion sitting on a Shivling”.

“There is an extraordinarily striking metaphor” with which a Rashrtiya Swayamsevak Sangh member had expressed the organisation’s frustration with its “inability to curb Modi”, Tharoor had said on October 28 in Bengaluru, citing a magazine article published in 2012. He quoted an RSS functionary as saying: “Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling, you cannot remove him with your hand and you cannot hit it with a chappal either”.

In his complaint, Rajeev Babbar claimed Tharoor has hurt the sentiments of Shiva devotees, PTI reported. “I am a devotee of Lord Shiva,” he said. “However, the accused completely disregarded the sentiments of crores of Shiva’s devotees, made the statement which hurt the sentiments of all the Lord Shiva devotees, both in India and outside the country.” The complainant claimed Tharoor’s statement was “intolerable abuse” and and “absolute vilification” of the faith of millions of people.

A court in Delhi’s Patiala House Courts complex adjourned the hearing to November 16, ANI reported.

‘Where is the freedom of expression?’

Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Tharoor called the case frivolous. “The charges are frivolous...If we start to stifle the right of the people to quote published material then where would our democracy head?” he asked. “Where is the freedom of expression?”

The Congress MP asked why the suit had been filed against him now even though the quote was published in the article six years ago. “In my book, I as a writer had quoted 5,000 other examples and stories,” he said.

Tharoor said he hoped the judge would “throw out” the case but added that he was ready to defend himself if that does not happen. The parliamentarian alleged that courts “are now being used as an instrument of political persecution”.